Boston’s mayoral candidates, after some prodding by civil rights and community organizations, have agreed to a fourth debate that will focus on issues affecting communities of color.
Councilor at Large John R. Connolly and state Representative Martin J. Walsh had previously said they would like to hold just three debates, preferably televised, in October.
But community advocates said that in a city where blacks, Latinos, and Asians account for a bigger share of the population than whites, issues affecting communities of color — public safety, education, economic development, and diversity — must be front and center.
A coalition of more than a dozen groups pushed for the fourth debate, including the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, the Boston branch of the NAACP, the Black Political Task Force, Commonwealth Compact at the University of Massachusetts Boston, MassVote, black clergy, and minority law enforcement officers.
The group said the additional debate will help ensure that the candidates explain how their administration would reflect the city’s diversity and that such issues as equitable city services, disproportionate levels of neighborhood crime, and a persistent achievement and opportunity gap are parsed as thoroughly as they need to be.
“I don’t think [candidates] should get a pass on their issues of diversity,” said Darnell Williams, head of the Urban League.
The candidates welcomed the opportunity to talk about their plans for the so-called New Boston during the 90-minute debate, which is tentatively scheduled for the third week in October.
Both campaigns have spoken and are hashing out the details about the specific date and time, said Joyce Linehan, a spokeswoman for Walsh, who said the issues are of “critical importance.”
Connolly spokeswoman Natasha Perez said, “We’re happy to work with the Walsh campaign and the coalition of groups, spearheaded by the Urban League to help make this event happen.”
State Representative Martin J. Walsh has secured a pair of major union endorsements in his quest to become Boston’s next mayor, locking down the support of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The state’s largest private-sector union, 1199 SEIU, represents 6,000 hospital, nursing home, and home-care workers who live in Boston.
“The members of 1199 SEIU epitomize the diverse and hard-working core of that American Dream,” Walsh said in a statement. “They go to work every day with the goal of helping people and giving their children a fighting chance. That is why I am running for mayor, and that is why I am grateful for the support of these working men and women.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents a variety of municipal workers and includes 2,000 city employees.
“With Marty, we know we will have a mayor who will recognize the important contributions we make to our city and our school communities,” said Charles C. Owen Jr., president of AFSCME Local 804.
“We know we’ll we have a mayor who may not always agree with us, but will always listen to what we have to say, value our input, and treat us as partners, as opposed to adversaries.”
While Walsh is widely regarded as the candidate most friendly with labor, the endorsements are significant because they could provide him with an army of canvassers and other get-out-the-vote muscle in the Nov. 5 general election against Councilor at Large John R. Connolly.
The SEIU endorsement is especially coveted because the union’s membership is concentrated in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, crucial battlegrounds for the two.
State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry wants to set the record straight: Her State House colleague, Representative Martin J. Walsh, did not endorse her run for the First Suffolk District seat this year, so she is not indebted to do the same in his bid for mayor.
“He stayed neutral in the race,” Dorcena Forry said in a statement responding to a column in Wednesday’s Boston Herald.
“The inference that I would therefore ‘return a favor’ to my colleague with a mayoral endorsement is misleading and incorrect.”
The column, which was corrected, was about Walsh and Councilor at Large John R. Connolly, both of whom made it into the final round of campaigning for the Nov. 5 general election, seeking endorsements from the other top three voting-getting candidates of color during the preliminary.
The column ends with speculation about Walsh seeking Dorcena Forry’s endorsement, saying the community must “wait and see if Dorcena Forry returns the favor to Walsh.”
Both Walsh and Connolly have been seeking support from influential people within communities of color, including some former mayoral candidates: Councilor at Large Felix G. Arroyo, former School Committee member John Barros, and former state representative Charlotte Golar Richie.
None of them have offered an endorsement, and neither has Dorcena Forry, the first Haitian-American and the first woman to hold a seat long held by men from South Boston.
Dorcena Forry said she would be making a decision on whom to back for mayor “in the coming days.”