BOSTON (CBS) – If you tuned in to Tuesday night’s first Boston mayoral debate on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 or WBZ-TV (watch it here if you missed it), you saw something rare in our modern-day political discourse – a confrontation between two political competitors that really wasn’t a confrontation at all.

There were moments when John Connolly and Marty Walsh dwelled on their differences.

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Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Connolly essentially suggested that Walsh, a former private-sector union president and longtime advocate for union interests on Beacon Hill, was so in the tank to labor that he can’t properly represent the entire city’s interests in City Hall. Walsh implied that Connolly would struggle to understand the concerns of working-class Bostonians because of his relatively privileged upbringing.

Neither claim seems especially compelling.

Walsh is bright enough to know he would quickly cripple his own career – not to mention the city’s fiscal stability – if he gave his union allies everything they wanted after taking office.

And if you walk with Connolly through some of the poorest parts of the city, you’ll see enough people who know him on sight to prove that he’s not some limousine liberal from leafy West Roxbury.

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But for the most part, the debate was a showcase for two men basically agreeing on a way forward for the city, one where old, lingering barriers – between private and public sectors, between unions and management, and among neighborhood enclaves – are torn down in favor of collaboration and community-building.

Maybe it didn’t make for harsh rhetoric and spectacular debate fireworks. If you want that, you can watch C-Span anytime.

But there’s a word for the way these two guys are thinking and campaigning.

It’s called progress.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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Jon Keller