First in a series of profiles of Boston’s 12 mayoral candidates.
The cancer ravaged Martin J. Walsh when he was a husky 7-year-old with bold red hair that would all fall out. They held a special First Communion for him on Christmas Day because doctors didn’t think he’d live until spring.
Years later an errant bullet hit Walsh one night on Dorchester Avenue, grazing his left leg when he was 22 and had developed a taste for alcohol. Before long he would hit bottom as an alcoholic and embrace sobriety, a turning point that gave his life focus.
Today, Walsh is a candidate for mayor of Boston as the contest enters the frenzied, post-Labor Day sprint to the preliminary election Sept. 24. He remains calm amid the tumult of the race. He is smiling, always smiling, because Walsh says he has yet to have a bad day on the campaign trail. Alcoholism, bullets, and cancer can give a man perspective.
“Subconsciously, it builds up strong character,” Walsh, now 46, says of the cancer, as he squirts ketchup on a sausage-and-egg sandwich at McKenna’s Café, a Savin Hill diner that is essentially his kitchen. “When you look back on it, it’s part of my story. Not my political story, it’s part of my story of who I am.”
Walsh courts voters with the relentless enthusiasm of a golden retriever fetching a tennis ball. He goes back and back and back again, smiling as he approaches strangers with his palm open, almost forcing them to shake his hand.
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