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Mayoral candidates flock to Cape for money, support

Bostonians may not be greeted by a flock of campaign signs (like this cluster in Jamaica Plain) while visiting Cape Cod, but they’re not able to escape the political season; instead, they find themselves dodging invitations to fund-raisers and hearing pleas for support on the airwaves.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

Bostonians may not be greeted by a flock of campaign signs (like this cluster in Jamaica Plain) while visiting Cape Cod, but they’re not able to escape the political season; instead, they find themselves dodging invitations to fund-raisers and hearing pleas for support on the airwaves.

Daniel F. Conley shot pool and listened to blues music at a country club fund-raiser in Mashpee. Martin J. Walsh ran an ad on Cape Cod radio, targeting voters prowling Route 6 in search of clam rolls and soft serve. Charlotte Golar Richie mingled with African-American donors at a historic home in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard.

The timing of the Boston mayoral race — slicing though the summer — has prompted many of the candidates to flee the city and head down to the Cape and Islands in search of wealthy patrons and vacationing voters.

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Bostonians who thought they could avoid the hurly burly of the political season by escaping to the beach have instead found themselves dodging invitations to fund-raisers and hearing pleas for support on the airwaves. But political activists and candidates make no apologies for the full-court press into vacation land, saying they have to go where they can find money and support.

“There are so many Bostonians who own homes in Scituate, Truro, on the Cape, and on the Vineyard, you would be foolhardy not to make the trip,” said Colette Phillips, a public relations executive who cohosted the fund-raiser for Golar Richie at a home formerly owned by Adam Clayton Powell, the late African-American congressman from New York, in Oak Bluffs. The event raised nearly $10,000 for Golar Richie’s campaign.

By far the biggest push for support from Bostonians on the Cape came from Walsh, a Dorchester state representative who spent $4,000 to run a radio ad on Cape Cod Broadcasting over Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff of the summer vacation season. In the minute-long spot, Walsh sounded like an official from the Cape tourism bureau.

“I expect that this Memorial Day weekend folks from all over Boston’s neighborhoods will be enjoying the Cape,” he said in the ad. “You will be experiencing the many wonderful things the Cape has to offer: the beaches, the restaurants, but most of all, enjoying time away with your families.”

Possibly not wanting to offend voters on vacation, he made only a gentle pitch for his candidacy, saying: “I hope to see you in your neighborhood over the next several months.”

‘I’m a little surprised . . . people are on vacation and don’t pay much attention to anything.’ — Robert O’Leary, former state senator from Barnstable

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Veteran Cape politicians said they could not recall a similar effort to court Boston voters in previous mayoral races, and some wondered whether it was a waste of the candidates’ time and money.

“I’m a little surprised by it because people are on vacation and don’t pay much attention to anything,” said Robert O’Leary, a former state senator from Barnstable. “I’d probably put it in the category of money to burn.”

But William Delahunt, who represented the Cape in Congress from 1997 to 2011, said he believed the ad was a smart move.

“There are probably more voters from Boston on the Cape at a given time this weekend than there would be in Boston,” he said. “Maybe the play ought to be to walk up and down the beaches, saying ‘I’m from Boston, what about you?’ ”

Candidates, though they may be loath to admit it, seem to enjoy campaigning on the Cape, 60 miles from the nearest polling place in Boston and a world away from the pressures of the city.

Conley’s fund-raiser was held by a swimming pool at the home of George Regan, a public relations executive who owns property at the Willowbend country club in Mashpee.

“Now, some might ask why we are here on the Cape, talking about Dan and the mayor’s race for the city of Boston,” Michael O’Keefe, a Republican and the Barnstable district attorney, told the crowd, according to a video of the event. “Whether we live there or not, we understand that, as Boston goes, so goes our state.”

After O’Keefe spoke, Conley delivered his stump speech and crooned a few bars of The Standells’ classic, “Dirty Water,” sparking laughter.

“It’s really a great pleasure to come down here to Cape Cod and spend some time away from the city and away from the campaign trail a little bit, although this is a fund-raiser,” Conley said.

Regan said the Cape is a “rich fishing ground” for campaign cash, and a haven where candidates can unwind.

“Cape Cod sets the tone,” Regan said, marveling that Conley sang in public. “He would never have done that in South Boston or East Boston.”

Some, however, are sensitive about the perception that they may be slipping out of the city for a quick vacation.

Councilor Michael P. Ross, who held a fund-raiser with gay and lesbian activists in Provincetown, emphasized that he drove there and back in a day, stopping only for a fish sandwich at the Land Ho! in Orleans on his way down and for a lobster roll in Wellfleet on the way back.

“It wasn’t for the beautiful sunshine, ocean, and beaches,” he said. “I wish it was. No fun.”

Of course, candidates don’t have to leave Boston to find voters in the summer. There has hardly been a cultural festival or cookout in the city that has not been visited by at least one candidate bearing buttons and leaflets.

But Councilor John Connolly, who said he has done all his campaigning within city limits, admitted being a bit envious of his rivals who have stumped on the Cape.

“If they have the ability to raise money or talk to voters down there, I think it’s a smart move,” he said. “I wish I had that type of event on my schedule.”

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.
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