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Mayoral candidates battle for the undecideds

Race intensifies down the stretch

John R. Connolly attended a basketball program event in Roxbury, and Martin J. Walsh dropped in at a Roxbury cafe.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

John R. Connolly attended a basketball program event in Roxbury, and Martin J. Walsh dropped in at a Roxbury cafe.

The two men vying to be the next mayor of Boston skirted victory parade traffic Saturday to make their closing pitches in a flurry of retail campaign stops.

While much of the city was consumed with cheering trophy-bearing duck boats, John R. Connolly and Martin J. Walsh brought their final-days urgency to a tight race, with polls showing a bloc of undecided voters that could determine the outcome.

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To reach them, both candidates hopscotched across the city.

Walsh visited Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, the Back Bay, and the Theater District. Connolly was booked for Roslindale, Dorchester, the West End, Roxbury, East Boston, Charlestown, the Back Bay, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park.

The candidates’ paths crossed in East Boston, where both appeared at the ribbon-cutting for a new library branch.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren stirred a bout of speculation late in the day, when she stopped into a Walsh campaign office and posed with his supporters for a photograph that was quickly posted on social media. But a Warren aide said the senator, whose husband has donated to Walsh’s campaign, was not endorsing either candidate.

At a visit to the Amy Lowell Apartments in the West End, just as the Red Sox were moving from land to water on the Charles River, Connolly argued that he has a better plan for reshaping the city’s housing plan, economic development, and schools.

While much of the city was busy with the celebration of a World Series win, the mayoral candidates were busy trying to craft a win of their own.

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Connolly has been refining his pitch and lessening his emphasis on education, as some of his campaign advisers believe he has maximized the political benefit of the issue.

“I hear what people say: ‘John Connolly, he seems OK, but does he ever talk about anything other than schools?’ Well, maybe not,” Connolly told a crowd of about 65 people, mostly senior citizens lunching on pizza from Ducali Pizzeria.

In his West End remarks, Connolly spoke at length about an array of policies, tying them together as his vision for the city.

Later, during a door-knocking tour of the Mishawum Park Apartments in Charlestown, Connolly said, “I’m trying to emphasize the connection. And so I’ve always talked about safety and jobs. But I’m trying to make sure that every voter understands that those are big priorities for me, I just see a connection between those two and schools.”

Connolly’s message was mostly positive, but he swiped at Walsh for being too tied to labor unions, which have provided the vast majority of the race’s outside spending, in an effort to support Walsh.

“I think my opponent is a good man, but is obligated to a narrow constituency that will make it very difficult for him to make the decisions that are in the best interest of all of Boston,” Connolly said.

In response, at a later appearance at a Hyde Park ice cream shop, Walsh said, “I could say that John is beholden to big business because he has gotten money from big business, but I don’t think that’s the case, so I’m not saying it. I’m certainly not beholden to labor. Labor has always supported me but I’ve always been able to push back when I have to.”

Walsh spent much of the morning poking his head into hair salons, corner stores, and barbershops in Dorchester as he canvassed with City Councilor Tito Jackson and state Representative Russell Holmes, both of whom support him.

The Dorchester Democrat then dashed to East Boston for a visit to a well-trafficked Dunkin’ Donuts, where he was joined by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

“This right here is the next mayor,” DeLeo declared, his arm draped over Walsh’s shoulder. “I’m the speaker, so I know these things.”

About two dozen people — many more wearing Sox apparel than campaign shirts — held Walsh signs as he addressed them, stressing the importance of making contact with unreached voters in the race’s final days.

“I love that shirt,” Walsh joked to a women decked out in Sox apparel who approached him after the event. “I’m Marty Walsh and I’m running for mayor,” he said as he extended his hand.

“I know all about you and Connolly,” the woman replied. “I said I’d vote for whichever one of you I met first. I haven’t met him, so you’ve got my vote.”

The breadth of Saturday’s campaigning showed both campaigns focused on building support in areas far from their traditional bases.

In the West End, Connolly told residents that the close-in neighborhoods of the city would be critical for his effort.

The campaign has been bracketed — and overshadowed — by two extremes.

The April 15 Marathon bombings came as the field to replace Thomas M. Menino was still materializing, and the race’s final weekend was marked by crowds packing the city for a raucous World Series championship celebration.

In between, a pair of high-profile criminal cases occupied major bandwidth.

“We did go from the Marathon to Aaron Hernandez to Whitey Bulger,” Connolly said Saturday. “It was like a crazy succession of events that definitely took attention away from the race.”

Both candidates sought to tap into the high created by the Red Sox’ success.

On Saturday, Walsh’s campaign tweeted out a picture of leftfielder Jonny Gomes sporting a “Walsh for mayor” T-shirt and a campaign button affixed to the World Series trophy. While knocking on doors in Charlestown, Connolly mimicked the police officer famously photographed throwing up his arms in celebration of a David Ortiz grand slam.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports. Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.
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