There may be five major candidates vying to be Boston’s next mayor, but on Tuesday all eyes will be on the three who, polls show, are locked in a virtual dead heat for second place and a chance to compete in the Nov. 2 general election.
The contest for that second slot involves Acting Mayor Kim Janey and City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George. A series of recent polls consistently show the trio within a hair’s breadth of one another, while City Councilor Michelle Wu appears to have opened up a considerable lead. The top two finisher’s from Tuesday’s nonpartisan preliminary advance to the final.
The fifth major candidate, John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief, has struggled to gain traction in the historically diverse field.
With every vote potentially decisive, the three women competing for that second ticket fanned out across Boston on Monday in a final push to motivate their supporters to head to the polls.
Speaking to a reporter between events in Dorchester on Monday, Campbell said she’s ensuring her place in the final “by doing the work.”
“We’re crisscrossing this city and meeting voters where they are, at their homes and the community centers,” Campbell said.
By afternoon, Campbell was paying visits to Saint Belvi Haitian Adult Day Health Center in Dorchester and the Kay Pam Greater Boston Adult Day Health Center across the street.
The faces of nearly all 70 senior citizens gathered at Sant Belvi lit up when Campbell unexpectedly appeared as they finished up their lunches of chicken, rice, and green beans at round tables with plexiglass dividers and bright yellow table cloths.
“They love Andrea,” community activist Bernadette Adonis said. “Andrea is not a stranger to them, she has been here, but they need to know that she is on the ballot and that she is running for mayor.”
Speaking to the crowd, largely made up of residents from Haiti, Campbell said she wanted to ensure that their families were afforded the same opportunities she had as a poor girl from Roxbury. The message resonated. “They all want to vote for the pretty lady,” said Jacques Nabal Jules, who speaks Haitian Creole and briefly helped translate the mood of the crowd. “That’s what all the women said.”
In South Boston, Essaibi George also expressed confidence in her chances as she knocked doors on a sunny afternoon. “I feel strong. I feel prepared. I feel ready for Election Day,” she said.
Monday might be “a bit of a restless night,” she joked, but she celebrated “the very certain energy and excitement that comes hours before polls open.”
Many knocks went unanswered during the work day, and Essaibi George left door hangers signed in Sharpie. But signs of support were clear, from the occasional pink sign sporting her logo to the honks of some motorists.
“Good luck! We’re with you!” a woman yelled out of a Honda as a waving Essaibi George crossed West 7th Street.
When Essaibi George knocked on another door, a man poked his head out from the second floor window to assure Essaibi George she had the votes of everyone in the house.
Ryan Brennan, 31, who answered the door with his dog Dexter, told Essaibi George she’d have his vote. Brennan, who works for the nonprofit Action for Boston Community Development, said he’d heard great things about Essaibi George from the communities he works with in East Boston.
“It’s just the personal connection I have with East Boston, . . . the way she is spoken about out there,” Brennan said. “That means a lot more than just the policies everybody was running on.”
Later that afternoon, dozens of members of UNITE Here Local 26, which represents workers in the hotel industry, rallied for Janey, the acting mayor, by the Mecca shopping plaza at Grove Hall, preparing to canvas the neighborhood. The workers, most of them wearing red UNITE T-shirts, waved signs and chanted, “Vote for Janey” at the busy intersection on Blue Hill Avenue, as passing cars honked their horns.
Susana Coelho, of East Boston, who works at the Hilton Boston at Logan Airport, called Janey “the change that we need.”
“She’s for the working class, she’s for the people,” Coelho said, passing as the cars passed. “She has experienced a lot of things we have experienced in Boston. She’s lived in this city and knows the struggles people have, she’s been through them herself.”
Carlos Aramayo, the Local 26 president, said the union backed Janey because of her work backing union workers, including when Kimpton Nine Zero hotel workers were terminated during the pandemic. Aramayo said Janey was quick to respond on behalf of the workers.
“That kind of bread and butter leadership is what we need every day in our city,” Aramayo said, saying union workers have been canvassing for Janey over the last several weeks, and will continue into Election Day.
“This is how we win elections, going door to door,” he said.
Janey joined the crowd at about 4 p.m., and headed door-to-door with Aramayo. She thanked her supporters, though she said there is more work to do.
“This city always gave me everything, so I will always give it my all,” she said.
Janey also told reporters that she was focusing on her race, not her opponents, and said that her candidacy is built on the work she has done already, managing the city’s response to the COVID pandemic, reopening businesses, starting the school year, and keeping crime low.
“We’ve got so much more work to do. Imagine what we can do with four more years based on these last five months,” she said.
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia. Emma Platoff can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emmaplatoff. Tonya Alanez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-929-1579. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.