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By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston City Councilor John Connolly holds a narrow lead in the 12-way race to succeed Mayor Thomas Menino, a fellow Democrat, according to a Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll released on Wednesday.
But Connolly's lead is within the poll's margin of error, with county District Attorney Daniel Conley and state Representative Martin Walsh within striking distance ahead of the city's open preliminary election on Tuesday.
The city's most competitive mayoral election in years has so far largely failed to excite voters in New England's largest city. A few weeks after Menino decided not to seek an unprecedented sixth term in office, Boston was rocked by the April 15th bombing attack at the marathon, events that captured public attention more than political campaigns.
Since then, the Democratic leading candidates have stuck to fairly similar positions, few looking to change the path set by Menino that brought strong economic growth and reduced crime in the city.
Boston holds a non-partisan primary for mayor, and the two biggest vote-getters regardless of party will face off in the November election. The liberal-leaning city has not elected a Republican mayor since 1926.
The Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll found that Connolly had the support of 16 percent of likely voters, while Conley and Walsh each had 12 percent. The poll of 600 likely voters has a 4 percent margin of error.
State Representative Charlotte Golar Richie, who would be the city's first black and first female mayor, had the support of 10 percent of likely voters.
The four leading candidates in this poll roughly match the findings of a University of New Hampshire/Boston Globe poll released on Sunday. It showed Connolly in the lead with 13 percent support, with Richie second at 9 percent.
All the top four candidates are Democrats.
Both polls showed a large portion of voters undecided ahead of the September 24 preliminary election - 19 percent in the Herald poll, 34 percent in the Globe.
Menino, the city's longest-serving mayor, took office in 1993, when his predecessor Raymond Flynn resigned to become U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
Boston mayors do not face term limits and are rarely defeated in re-election campaigns. Connolly is the one candidate to have announced his campaign before Menino said he would not run again.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Nick Zieminski)