Three Republicans and two Democrats running in the US Senate special election spent a sunny Saturday dashing through towns north, south, and west of Boston, reminding voters what has been easy to forget the past tumultuous weeks: Tuesday is primary day.
The candidates went in search of voters at venues large and small — from a massive motorcycle rally for wounded veterans at Suffolk Downs to Little League opening games to the Chicopee transfer station.
“The campaign effectively began yesterday,” said state Representative Daniel B. Winslow, one of the three Republicans seeking the nomination. Most Republican voters, he noted, have been undecided in a race that has been sidelined by the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.
In one day, Winslow planned to shake hands at an orchard, a bicycle shop, a deli, and a supermarket, before meeting voters outside Fenway Park. He began the morning working the tables inside Red’s Kitchen + Tavern in Peabody, where some voters were just waking up to the idea that a primary was imminent. Winslow handed out his campaign brochure and chatted with Republican Tony Pasquale, 56, of Beverly, who was eating at the counter with his 11-year-old son, Marcos, clad in his orange soccer uniform.
Was he planning to vote on Tuesday? Pasquale was asked.
“Now I am!” he responded. “I didn’t even know it was voting day!”
The Democrat leading in the race, US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden, assembled supporters at rallies in Somerville, Lynn, Beverly, Lowell, and Lawrence. At the Arlington American Legion Post 39, he was joined by four elected officials and about 100 supporters who cheered his commitment to issues of gun control and climate change.
“Just as Sandy Hook was our warning on gun violence, Hurricane Sandy was our warning on global warming,” Markey told the crowd, pledging to do more on both fronts.
Markey also picked up the endorsement of Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy. In a statement, she called him a “national leader” who has “spent his career fighting for opportunity for all.”
Markey, whose campaign went dark for eight days following the Patriots Day bombings, noted the unpredictable nature of this special election.
“To a certain extent, what we’re doing is terra incognita,” Markey said after the Arlington rally. “It’s impossible to really know what impact it’s going to have on turnout.”
But he said he had spent months building an organization around the state, which is now focused on getting out supporters.
Markey’s rival for the Democratic nomination, US Representative Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston, held several campaign events on the state’s South Coast, before heading west to Worcester. When the day was done, he had visited a Little League game, fund-raisers, and a Walk for Autism Awareness.
In Worcester, he stood on the stairs of a medical practice and implored the two dozen or so supporters who gathered there to make sure to get to the polls on Tuesday.
“The most important relationship I have in Washington, D.C., is the one I have with you. You’re the ones who sent me,” Lynch said, eliciting applause from the crowd.
Supporters on hand said they are drawn to Lynch because, as a former ironworker, he understands how the nation’s economic woes are affecting them and he won’t disappear from the neighborhoods if elected to the Senate.
“You can tell by listening to him,” said Danny DeLollis, 55, an out-of-work teacher from Ayer. “He’s not full of baloney like that other guy.”
“He’s not a career politician; because he’s been in the trenches, he feels our pain,” said Greg Pike, 54, of Auburn. “He knows what it’s like to be out here chasing a paycheck.”
Republican candidate Michael J. Sullivan campaigned in Springfield and Chicopee before joining a Spring Stroll in Holliston, sponsored by the local business association.
Sullivan, a former state and federal prosecutor and legislator, said he has been encouraged by those he met on the trail. As he weaved his way past magic shows and yard sales, passersby shouted out, “Hey, Mike!” or approached him to let him know he has their support. He told voters he’s the strongest of the Republican Senate candidates on the economy and national security, which he said is fresh in the mind of voters following the Boston Marathon attacks.
“The voters are still devastated by what happened on Patriots Day. There were questions about whether or not they’ll show up,” he said. “But what I’m seeing as I walk the streets is that people are excited and still paying attention.”
With each voter he approached, Sullivan hammered home his campaign’s main message.
“I’m a small government kinda guy,” Sullivan told a middle-aged man, who described himself as an independent. “I want to cut the size of government and bring back jobs to this neck of the woods – because what they’ve been doing in Washington these last few years clearly hasn’t been working.”
Republican Gabriel E. Gomez, a Cohasset private equity investor and first-time statewide candidate, continued his “Service First” tour, barnstorming 29 towns in four days, highlighting his goal to reform Washington. The former Navy SEAL visited the Shea Naval Aviation Museum in Weymouth and the Boston Wounded Vets’ Bike Run at Suffolk Downs, before greeting voters at a Stoughton VFW and outside a New England Revolution game. He had less luck at the Franklin fire and police departments, where no one was available to shake his hand, but dispatcher Didi Baker recognized his face from his TV ads. “I thought you looked familiar!” she said.
He was a new face to Paul Lapierre, a cook at the Uptowne Pub in Franklin, a paneled barroom that was nearly empty on a warm spring afternoon. But Gomez’s military credentials immediately won over at least one voter there.
“You’re a Navy SEAL? You definitely got my vote then,” said Lapierre, a former Marine.
The special election is scheduled to replace John F. Kerry, now US secretary of state. The Democratic and Republican winners of Tuesday’s primaries will face off in the general election on June 25th. Turnout is expected to be low on Tuesday.