In Tuesday’s mayoral election, Robert Consalvo is relying on turning out his high-voting base in Hyde Park, the neighborhood he has represented as a district city councilor for 11 years. But he is not the only contender staking a claim to the turf.
Daniel F. Conley, now Suffolk district attorney and a mayoral candidate, used to represent the neighborhood on the city council. Two other candidates for mayor — Felix G. Arroyo and John R. Connolly — are city councilors who represent all the city’s neighborhoods. Arroyo grew up in Hyde Park, too.
“We’ve got some good people running,” said Paul Devine, a Hyde Park resident who knows Conley and Consalvo personally. “And they’re going to detract from one another.”
The crowded race for mayor is exposing voters’ conflicting loyalties in all parts of the city. In Dorchester, six candidates live within a 2-mile radius. But the tension is hitting home especially hard in Hyde Park, the neighborhood that for two decades has been the home of Boston’s mayor.
In a field with a dozen candidates, some of whom appeal to the same geographic or ethnic constituencies, no base is considered off-limits by a rival. Campaigns do their best to pick off every vote, splitting neighborhoods, streets, and families in the process. Consider that Consalvo’s own cousin donated $500 to Conley before Consalvo declared his candidacy.
Consalvo, Connolly, and Conley are also scrapping for votes in West Roxbury, the neighborhood where Connolly lives and where Conley moved when he left Hyde Park. The high-traffic, high-visibility road Conley lives on now features 18 of his campaign signs, nine for Connolly and two for Consalvo.
One local voter noted that the three pols from the same generation are drawing from the same well of support. “Really, they’re sort of eating up each other,” he said.
In Hyde Park, Consalvo’s campaign spokesman says that his support is overwhelming, an assertion supported by the dominance of his campaign signs there. “This is where Rob’s focused on providing excellent constituent service that really matters,” spokesman Kevin Franck said. “If you live in Hyde Park, chances are you know a pothole Rob fixed.”
But Conley’s supporters say he is making inroads there, in part because polling of the tightly packed field indicates he could have a better chance of winning than Consalvo. Only two candidates will survive Tuesday’s preliminary election and move on to the Nov. 5 general election.
“I think a lot of people in Hyde Park are actually torn,” said Sharon Krause, a Conley volunteer. “In the beginning, everyone thought it would be great if Dan and Rob both would make the final. But now I think people are seeing how close the race is and how close Dan is, and want to make their vote count.”
Conley’s campaign also works diligently to remind residents of the candidate’s Hyde Park heritage.
“People think of Dan as DA, but he was their city councilor, too,” Conley spokesman Mike Sherry said. “He’s really a Hyde Park kid, with a lot of longstanding friends and family. His parents still live there in the same house. His roots go very deep in Hyde Park.”
Conley’s old street, Badger Road, still shows some allegiance, with seven Conley signs. Elizabeth Bell, one of those supporting Conley and toting a yard sign, said she might be supporting Consalvo “if we didn’t have Dan.” But she does.
Theresa Cameron pledged her vote to her current councilor rather than Conley, her former next-door neighbor.
“I voted for him [Conley] before, but now? I love Rob,” Cameron said. “I like them all, but I love Rob.”
As neighborhoods go, Hyde Park is a Boston outlier. A neighborhood of leafy lots and sprawling parkways, it dangles so precipitously off the southwest edge of the city that it often seems more in league with its suburban neighbors, Dedham and Milton, than busy Boston neighborhoods like Back Bay and Beacon Hill.
But it has enjoyed unusual relevance for two decades as the place that Mayor Thomas M. Menino calls home, making it, if not the castle of the king, than at least the garage of the urban mechanic.
“I think that people all acknowledge there’s been infrastructure improvements in Hyde Park under Tom Menino over the last 20 years that hadn’t happen before that,” said City Council President Stephen J. Murphy, who also lives in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park is also coveted turf in city elections because it is one of the areas where people consistently vote. Consalvo’s council district includes more than 6,100 super voters, residents who have voted in the last three mayoral elections.
“One of Rob’s real strengths in the race is that his base is a very high-turnout district,” Franck said. “Folks who live in Hyde Park turn out the vote in much bigger numbers then those who live in the Fenway.”
That means it is also a hot spot for mayoral candidates vying for individual voters’ support. On a single day last week, Christen Dellorco got five brochures in the mail from different mayoral campaigns.
Dellorco is firmly committed to Consalvo, who is her husband’s cousin, and has a campaign sign in her yard to prove it.
But that sign antagonized her next-door-neighbor, Jack Slekis. He countered by erecting a massive sign for Conley.
The dueling campaign signs vie for motorists’ attention along Truman Highway. The cordial relationship between the Hyde Park neighbors has soured.
“He stopped talking to us,” Dellorco said. “I would say, ‘Hi, Jack,’ out in the yard, and he would ignore me. Over political signs!”
The tension is less thick on Badger Road, where Devine is among those advertising his support for Conley, his former longtime neighbor. Still, he has good things to say about Consalvo, whose family he has known for 30 years.
“The Consalvos are wonderful people,” Devine said. “Robbie’s a swell guy.”