Boston’s two mayoral candidates dispatched political armies throughout the city on Election Day, volunteers on a mission: Get voters to the polls for their candidate.
Organized labor. Public school moms. Community activists. Elected officials. Religious leaders. And small business owners.
This was a day for foot soldiers.
State Representative Martin J. Walsh had more than 4,000 volunteers knocking on doors and calling voters. Volunteers drove six sound trucks and 16 food trucks. Sixty-seven people ran among the city’s 255 polling locations, gathering voting results to help fine tune their ground game.
Councilor John R. Connolly’s team of moms partnered with college students, Connolly’s friends, ministers, and families with young children.
This was the day Michelle Novelle, 49, and an energetic mother of nine from Roslindale, had been waiting for. She has stood next to Connolly at rallies, hosted meet-and-greets at her home, and introduced him at some of his campaign’s largest events.
But her passion is one-on-one conversations about her candidate, and on Election Day, she planned to have as many as possible while reminding people to head to the polls.
“I love canvassing,” Novelle said as she pulled her tan minivan to a stop on Poplar Street in Roslindale. “It’s much more rewarding than phone calls. With phone calls, they can hang up on you.”
Bounding up and down the street, Novelle worked the doors, touching base with voters who had been contacted by the campaign but were noncommittal.
In Dorchester, Vargas DaSilveira hit pause on a blue iPod, quieting the loud speaker that blared a continuous mix of voices advocating Walsh for mayor. DaSilveira had just hit the intersection where the Vietnamese American Community Center sits in Fields Corner.
“Here, we have to turn it off,” he said pointing to a polling location plastered with campaign signs. All campaigning must be kept 150 feet from the door. Then he pulled on a Red Sox jacket to cover the red campaign logo on his T-shirt and headed inside.
The polls had been open for just over three hours. He was driving “Route 3,” a circuit in Bowdoin-Geneva and Fields Corner that includes Dorchester House, the Vietnamese American Community Center, and Up Academy Charter School of Dorchester.
It took him about five to seven minutes to write down the exact time and the number of ballots that had been fed into the black voting machines at each polling location. He grabbed a stack of voter information papers from another Walsh volunteer.
At 10:28 a.m., he pulled away and directed the truck toward the staging location at Russell Auditorium on Talbot Avenue to drop off a blue folder swollen with voter information.
As he pressed play on the iPod, the sound resumed and the Rev. Jeffrey Brown’s voice continued: “We need a game-changing leader who will grow our economy and who will fight to end the era of violence, and that leader is Marty Walsh.”
Back in Roslindale, Novelle hit dozens of doors along Poplar and Canterbury streets, focusing primarily on super voters and seniors who are likely to go to the polls — and likely to remember a positive interaction with a campaign volunteer.
Angeline Miller, 63, said she had already cast her vote for Connolly.
“I’ve known John for years!” said Miller as she made her way to the elevator of Roslindale House, a home for senior citizens. “He’s practically my neighbor!”
Novelle connected with 10 voters, half the number she had planned to. Most said they had already cast their ballot for Connolly, or intended to.
“Oh yeah, I’m voting for John,” said John Herney, 74. “My son is on his way to pick me up and we’re headed down to the polls.”
As Novelle wrapped up her three-hour shift, she ducked back into the Roslindale field office, where more than two dozen volunteers furiously dialed voters.
At roughly the same time, a few neighborhoods over, DaSilveira had made it his mission to make sure every friend and family member over 18 headed to the polls.
DaSilveira, who grew up on Hamilton Street in Bowdoin-Geneva, said he had not always been this politically active. But when his cousin John F. Barros decided to run for mayor, DaSilveira vowed to do everything he could to support Barros’s candidacy.
That support carried over to Walsh when Barros endorsed him after failing to ascend after the preliminary election.
“Let me see if my uncle’s ready,” he said in front of a yellow three-decker on Norton Street about 11:59 a.m.
Two of DaSilveira’s cousins climbed into the car instead. “I wasn’t going to vote today until DaSilveira called,” said Derrick Semedo, 21.
DaSilveira had to make stops at two different polling locations. The dual trips did not bother DaSilveira as long as ballots were cast.
“What’s up with this guy?” Semedo said nodding to the huge image of Walsh decorating the side of the van. “Is he a good guy?”
“Very good guy,” DaSilveira said, climbing into the driver’s seat.
It was 3 p.m., and Connolly’s camp made the call to clear campaign offices and reroute volunteers from Roslindale to downtown as the campaign worked to pull more voters from Beacon Hill.
Canvassers were told to stop reporting their results — just keep knocking on doors and working the phones.
“Hi, this is Rachel from the Connolly campaign. Just calling to see if you’ve voted,” a campaign volunteer said, reading her script into one of the dozens of temporary cellphones purchased by the campaign.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll stop calling you then,” she said.
The woman on the other line had voted: For Walsh.
That would be music to the ears of someone like George LoCascio. His white Ford Econoline van was plastered with so many bumper stickers it was a rolling advertisement of his political loyalties, for Walsh, Jack Hart, Scott Brown, Stephen F. Lynch, Bill Linehan, Michael Flaherty. He stopped it in front of the polling place at M Street Beach in South Boston.
It was also a beacon to hungry election officials and campaign volunteers. When the van arrived, it was chow time.
“What do you need baby face?” LoCascio asked an elderly poll worker, shivering at the van’s wide-open side door. “I got some pizza pie. Calzones. You want a roast beef?”
What he did not have was coffee.
Regardless of political affiliation, everyone was welcome at LoCascio’s van on Election Day.
“I won’t charge,” he teased a friend holding a Connolly sign.
Downtown, Ross Levanto sprinted out of Connolly’s field office with a fresh group of volunteers. It was crunch time, and he was headed to pound the pavement in his home neighborhood on Beacon Hill.
Levanto was insistent as he worked the streets, stopping each person he passed to make sure they had gone to vote.
“How do you do?” Levanto asked state Representative Jay Livingstone, a Connolly supporter knocking on doors, as the two passed on the street.
“Pretty good,” the lawmaker replied, saying he spoke with more than half the people in his packet.
Levanto was impressed, but unmoved.
“Awesome,” he said, as he placed a Connolly sticker on the front of his baseball cap. “But keep going!”Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.