The mayoral campaign heads into its final week with both camps portraying the race as a dead heat, setting up a frenetic dash to the finish in Boston’s most competitive race for chief executive in three decades.
The final televised debate is scheduled for Tuesday night, leaving state Representative Martin J. Walsh and Councilor at Large John R. Connolly with a dwindling number of opportunities to accomplish two sometimes conflicting imperatives: exciting their core supporters, while also reaching out to voters who have not yet made a decision.
Both campaigns agreed Monday that Walsh had seized momentum after trailing in a string of public opinion polls.
There were also signs that the well-funded outside forces that have lined up behind the candidates are making final preparations for a furious battle over who can best move voters to the ballot boxes.
A memorandum to first-year apprentices at the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 17 from a training official informed the workers that their employers had “been notified that you must report to the Training Center” — rather than their job sites — on the morning of Election Day. The union “will have all 1st year apprentices participate in the Boston mayoral election.”
The Dorchester-based local, a member of the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council where Walsh worked as president until earlier this year, has aggressively backed Walsh.
John Healy, the training coordinator who sent the memo, declined to comment when reached by telephone.
Meanwhile, Walsh’s campaign pointed to accelerated spending by an outside education policy group, Democrats For Education Reform, that supports Connolly, saying the organization had purchased $426,000 worth of advertising for the week between Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
A spokesman for the education group called that estimate “directionally correct,” based on the group’s media buys so far, but declined to address specifics.
“If the other side isn’t releasing their plans for the last week, we’re not going to release our plans,” said the spokesman, Liam Kerr, referring to the labor groups that will be spending on behalf of Walsh this week.
Walsh campaign aides also pointed to the fact that the education group has several hedge fund executives on its board, suggesting that much of Connolly’s support is flowing from financial service executives.
In the last 12 days, Connolly’s campaign said he had raised $700,000, bringing his October total above $1.3 million, an impressive haul for a short stretch in a municipal election. Walsh’s campaign declined to release his latest fund-raising numbers.
Both camps confirmed that their internal polls indicated movement from earlier surveys that showed Connolly with a lead.
“It’s a statistical dead heat,” Connolly told his finance committee at a downtown meeting Monday morning. “I feel good. We knew this was going to be tight, tighter than we wanted it to be.”
Walsh, speaking outside a West Roxbury senior center, agreed the race is down to the wire. “I’d say this is a dead heat,” he said. “I can feel it out on the street.”
The mission for both Walsh and Connolly is to pick up the support from the tens of thousands of Bostonians who voted for neither of them in the September preliminary election, instead casting ballots for one of the other 10 contenders.
“There were 70,000 votes that they [Walsh and Connolly] didn’t get,” said state Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, a Jamaica Plain Democrat who is not aligned in the race.
“Of those 70,000-plus, the ones that will come out, what’s the message that will resonate and how will they get that message out? Or will it be a pure ground game?”
“In these last few days, it’s going to be about whose hearts they’re going to touch,” Sanchez said. “We’ve gone beyond social media, we’ve gone beyond the Web page. It’s going to be about how these two candidates get to people’s hearts, and not through their platform page. Both of them have done a lot of it. Their strategies and the individuals are different.”
Both candidates are operating in a less collegial climate than the one that dominated the preliminary election, which Walsh won narrowly over Connolly.
Connolly’s campaign, for instance, has intensified its assault on Walsh’s union ties, hoping to drive home the impression that Walsh would be too beholden to the labor movement to govern effectively.
Walsh’s camp has seized on reports that a firm paid by Connolly has placed phone calls to voters conveying negative messages about Walsh.
The candidates clashed Monday over Connolly’s assertion that Walsh, who has benefited from $1.7 million in spending from outside groups affiliated with organized labor, will flood the streets with union workers on Election Day.
“We know the scary part is his [get out the vote] mode. He’s going to have union bodies flown in from around the country,” Connolly told his finance committee, during a meeting to which a Globe reporter was granted access. “We’re out in every corner of this city. I think we have got voters who are under the radar.”
Walsh scoffed at the charge that thousands of union members will fly into Boston.
“Yeah, that’s, that’s not true. I’ve heard that twice today now,” he said when asked about Connolly’s assertion. “That’s clearly a rumor by John.”
The scheduling of Tuesday night’s debate comes on an off-day for the Red Sox, who are locked in their own tight battle against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. That may mean that voters are more likely to tune in, with few demands on their attention.