Mayoral candidates Martin J. Walsh and John R. Connolly traversed the city this afternoon in a last-minute hunt for holdout voters, both expressing confidence they would win the first open mayoral race in a generation.
Turnout was brisk at many polling stations. As of 6 p.m., 113,677 people, or nearly 31 percent of those registered, had voted, according to city figures. Turnout was up, compared with the same point during the September preliminary election, when only about 23 percent had voted.
During a campaign stop at Richy’s Luncheonette in Hyde Park, Walsh said he liked his chances.
“I feel great. I’ve been all over the city a little bit today and the response has been unbelievable,’’ he said.
At St. George’s Orthodox Church in West Roxbury, Connolly cast a vote for himself and said he was confident other Bostonians would do the same.
“I think we’ve got a lot of momentum heading out here today,” he said. “I think people are going to respond to a vision that puts our schools first and recognizes that if we have great schools, we’re going to have safe streets and a strong economy.”
Connolly’s campaign sent out an e-mail to supporters saying it appeared the election was on pace to have the highest turnout in 30 years. “Everybody is voting because they know what is at stake. Don’t be left out,” campaign manager Nathaniel Stinnett wrote.
Walsh’s campaign e-mailed supporters saying the turnout was highter than expected and that meant that Connolly was getting his supporters to the polls. “We urgently need your help to make sure every single Marty Walsh supporter gets to the polls by 8:00,” Joe Rull, field director of the Walsh campaign wrote.
Connolly, a city councilor who has promised to be the “education mayor,” and Walsh, a state representative who has been a champion of labor, are vying for the seat being vacated by long-time Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who decided not not to seek a sixth term. Menino, the city’s first Italian-American mayor, has been beset by a series of ailments in the last year, including a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes and a fractured leg.
During the preliminary race, Walsh, whose base is in Dorchester and South Boston, edged Connolly by 1,400 votes to top the ticket.
Connolly won 20 percent of his vote from his home ward centered in West Roxbury. Recent polls have shown Walsh leading Connolly.
A victory for either men will mean a return to a decades-long tradition of Irish-American mayors.
Voters are also electing at-large and district city councilors. And residents of East Boston will vote on the proposed Suffolk Downs casino.
More than 150 voting locations will be open until 8 p.m. By early afternoon, there were no reports of major voting problems or irregularities, city officials said.
After casting his ballot, Connolly stopped at the Holy Name Parish Hall in West Roxbury, where he greeted supporters. In the center of the rotary downhill from the parish hall, more than a dozen Walsh supporters stood holding campaign signs, seeking votes on Connolly’s turf.
Connolly shrugged off their presence.
“This is where I grew up,” he said. “This is the home base.”
Men shook Connolly’s hand as he stood in the parking lot, and a woman hugged him.
“I love your mother,” she said.
Connolly told a reporter he hadn’t slept at all the night before but wasn’t concerned about making it through the long final day of the campaign.
“I’m all adrenaline now,” the candidate said.
In Jamaica Plain, Walsh walked up and down Centre Street, angling for every last vote with the help of City Councilor Felix Arroyo, his one-time rival during the preliminary race. After Walsh topped the ticket in September, Arroyo endorsed him.
“Meet the next mayor of Boston,” Arroyo boomed to people on the street.
“Ya votaron?” he asked two women in Spanish.
In JP Licks, Walsh greeted voters licking ice cream and downing iced coffees, then went to the counter to order a strawbery frappe.
The drink, and a piece of banana bread he had at Richy’s, were the only food he had eaten all day.
“We’re going to win,” Arroyo said, patting his shoulder as Walsh waited to pay the cashier. “Tonight, we’re going to party like rock stars.”
JP Licks was Walsh’s last campaign stop before heading back to his Dorchester home to return phone calls and practice his post-election speech. He wrote two, his spokeswoman said.
Across the city, voters gave a variety of reasons for their choice of mayor.
In Dorchester, at Cristo Rey, Meghan McLaughlin, a 28-year-old day care director, said she believed Walsh would represent the interests of the middle class.
”He’s for our people,” she said as she held her daughter, Molly Boston.
At the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, Milton Jones, 55, said he liked what Walsh had to say about more diversity in the command staff of the Boston police department.
“We need to see more people of color in command positions,’’ Jones said. “I think [Walsh] has a good handle on those issues.”
At the Lilla Frederick Pilot School in Dorchester, Sharon Miller, 48, a writer, said she voted for Connolly.
“Connolly has a history in this neighborhood, and I want someone who is familiar with this city.”
There was a trickle of voters this morning at the John F. Kennedy Elementary school in Jamaica Plain where about 117 people had voted by 8:30 a.m. Among them were Eric Garcia, 26, who came with his mother, Celia. Both of them voted for Walsh.
“I voted because I wanted a change, something new,” Garcia said. “I want to see a new generation of leadership. I like the ideas Walsh brings to the table.”