State Representative Martin J. Walsh, barely known outside his Dorchester community, emerged from the 2013 preliminary election in a tight battle with City Councilor John Connolly from West Roxbury. Walsh had to break free.
He did so by quickly and steadily rolling out endorsements from a diverse array of politicos — all aimed at illustrating that he would be a leader for the whole, changing city. “That it was more than just a ‘Dorchester guy’ running,” as a Walsh senior campaign adviser put it at the time.
First came a “Women for Walsh” meeting at Old South Church two days after the preliminary. Then came support from his former rivals, all people of color — former state legislator Charlotte Golar Richie, former city councilor Felix G. Arroyo, and John Barros, a nonprofit leader and former School Committee member.
Walsh, of course, won that race. Now, eight years later, a similar situation is playing out as leaders of the city’s Black and Latino communities put their weight behind mayoral candidate Michelle Wu in her race against Annissa Essaibi George.
Wu’s multicultural coalition of support expanded further Wednesday evening, as leaders from the city’s sizable Haitian American community gave her their blessing, one day after Essaibi George unveiled her equity, inclusion and justice platform in Roxbury.
“We are going to have a partner who’s not gonna kick us along the line, but who’s gonna work with us and . . . really support all of our dreams,’' Jean-Claude Sanon, a Haitian leader and radio host, thundered as a crowd cheered and Kompa, a popular Haitian music, played.
Wu spoke briefly in Haitian Creole as she stood in front of her new campaign office in the former A Nu Look Full Service Salon on Blue Hill Avenue — her second campaign office in Mattapan — and promised to “get City Hall out of City Hall into the neighborhoods.”
Earlier on Wednesday, members of WAKANDA II — an initiative founded to coalesce Black support behind a Black mayoral candidate — also endorsed Wu in Grove Hall.
“It was clear to us, that for this time, for this moment, for this hour, that that choice for us had to be Michelle Wu,” said Dianne Wilkerson, a former state senator and the group’s cofounder. “This is more than just an announcement today, this is a pledge of commitment that we are going to do everything possible to make this victory real.”
While endorsements don’t automatically translate into victories, the growing trend spells trouble for Essaibi George, who received single digit support in key areas of the city’s Black community in the preliminary and has the most work to do to broaden her base if she wants to win in November.
“It is certainly looking like 2013 all over again,” said Representative Russell Holmes, though he cautioned that a group of Black and Latino leaders he convened has yet to back either candidate.
Andrea Cabral, the former Suffolk County sheriff who backed City Councilor Andrea Campbell in the preliminary, said endorsements give some voters “a measure of confidence in a candidate,” but they don’t necessarily provide a substantive ground game that gets volunteers knocking on doors, calling likely voters, or handing out literature for a candidate.
“People are looking at policy plans, the substance of the answers the candidates are giving, and [they are] trying to discern whether or not it goes beyond rhetoric,” said Cabral, who has not yet endorsed. “That’s a challenge for both candidates.”
Bobby Jenkins, a Black Mattapan activist and ardent Essaibi George supporter, dismissed any comparisons to 2013, saying “it’s a totally different scene” this year with different players.
“It’s not about choosing the best . . . minority candidate,” Jenkins said. “It’s about choosing the best candidate in general. I know both of them. Michelle Wu is too much of a progressive. We don’t need progressiveness. We need someone who is one of us.”
Still, the political tide seems to be shifting in favor of Wu, who placed first last month, followed by Essaibi George.
Expect Wu to expand on that showing, similar to what Walsh did in 2013, by appealing to working class voters who backed Walsh and the upper middle class residents who rallied for Connolly, said Paul Watanabe, a political scientist from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Essaibi George, who has the backing of numerous unions, has greeted the string of pro-Wu endorsements with a shrug and a bit of surprise, saying her priority is to earn the support of voters. “That is most important to me,” she said.
Nonetheless, the show of support for Wu represents a challenge for Essaibi George, who joined residents, community members, and advocates at Dudley Town Common in Roxbury Tuesday afternoon to officially release her equity, inclusion and justice agenda. She said the event was not in response to Wu’s endorsements, but rather a continuation of her years-long work of engaging with residents.
She also announced two new campaign offices, one in Roxbury and the other in Hyde Park, at the Mattapan border, and renewed her pledge to devote $100 million of federal money to the Black community. And she is gaining support among some leaders of color: A group of Black pastors, led by the Rev. Eugene Rivers of Dorchester, is expected to endorse Essaibi George this week.
Anthony “Big Time” Seymore, who is Black and runs Youth in Crisis, which aims to reduce youth violence, said he has known Essaibi George for about a decade and is supporting her because “she’s relatable, she’s supportive, and she [responds] whenever I call.”
He said people should listen to the candidates and judge them by the work they have put into the communities.
Before announcing their endorsement Wednesday, 13 Haitian leaders — former City Council candidates, business owners, and clergy members — had met separately with the two candidates on Zoom early last week for about an hour, and many of them were impressed with Essaibi George, but also had concerns about her, said Sanon.
“We felt it was going to be the same old thing, the same old politics with her,” he said, noting her support for additional police, her opposition to an eviction moratorium, and her backing of a School Committee appointed by both the mayor and the City Council.
Wu, by contrast, backs the eviction moratorium and supports a majority of the School Committee being elected, and, Sanon said, has pledged a long partnership with the Haitian community.
Sanon said the Haitian leaders were swayed by Wu’s previous work on the council, such as increasing language access for immigrant Bostonians, including many born in Haiti.
Support for Wu began building four days after the preliminary vote, when state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz endorsed her at Villa Victoria. Several days later, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who placed fourth in the preliminary, backed Wu in Nubian Square.
Other supporters include state Representatives Liz Miranda and Nika Elugardo and Representative Ayanna Pressley.
Barros, who competed in the preliminary election, has met with both candidates recently and is having ongoing conversations with them before making an endorsement.
Holmes, the Mattapan state representative, has pulled together a coalition of Black and Latino leaders who aim to present a list of six key priorities to the two mayoral candidates. He said he doesn’t want the candidates to forget issues pertinent to the Black and Latino communities. The group is also devising plans to increase voter turnout.
“What I keep calling the Black Bible Belt of Boston will have something to say [in this election],” he said.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Dianne Wilkerson. She is a former state senator. The Globe regrets the error.