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Mayoral candidates hit the trail as early voting opens

Lili Machkasov, 4, waited for her father, Yuri, during early voting at the Paris Street Community Center in East Boston.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

With early polls open Saturday — and Election Day 10 days away — mayoral contenders Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George dashed to campaign stops across the city, focusing their campaign pitches and forum discussions in the Black community.

Wu, who has maintained a strong lead in polls, also announced the endorsement of a dozen Black clergy members, solidifying support that has been mounting since the preliminary election, when three Black candidates were eliminated.

Both candidates introduced new ideas at a forum at Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan Saturday afternoon. Wu said she would include a “chief possibility officer” in her mayoral administration “to ensure we’re not just thinking about the ways that things have been done, but really pushing us to transform our system.” And Essaibi George, who has focused on her diversity and equity agenda in recent weeks, said she would create an Office of Black Bostonians.

“We often talk about Boston’s history. We need to talk about Boston’s future,” said Essaibi George.


Both candidates are trying to appeal to voters who remain undecided, particularly Black and Latino voters. Wu and Essaibi George are also trying to gin up votes after a disappointing turnout in the September preliminary.

“This is a really important election, and you’ve got two very clear choices,” Essaibi George told the media at a Mattapan stop. “Every Bostonian’s voice matters. And I want them engaged in this election. And we’ve done our very best to not just engage the super voters, to make sure that our city’s residents know there’s an election, know that they’ve got choices and know how important it is that they exercise that opportunity to vote.”

Essaibi George and Wu both made campaign stops in Mattapan Saturday morning, trying to win voters on the same stretch of Blue Hill Avenue. Wu brought her campaign and supporters to Brothers Deli and Restaurant.


“We need some big changes in Boston. We need everyone to be at the table, driving these changes in Boston. We need a city that is for every one of us,” Wu said to applause. “So if you’re excited and you’re ready, we need your help getting out the vote right now.”

About an hour later, Essaibi George was around the corner, thanking a cluster of Haitian supporters outside Le Foyer bakery, where booming music played in the parking lot and an emcee chanted “AEG.”

“We’ve got a little bit of work to do,” Essaibi George told them, before dancing and mugging for photos with fans.

Their dueling appearances brought a Blue Hill Avenue standout showdown between the two campaigns, with volunteers wearing Essaibi George’s bold pink T-shirts toting her signs just an intersection away from Wu’s fans holding purple signs.

Annissa Essaibi George, center, shared a laugh with Alta Kenol, left, and Gary Zizi during a campaign event at Le Foyer Bakery in the Mattapan. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

“I love her,” said Essaibi George supporter Kyrone Beverly, who cheered for honks in the median while holding her campaign sign. “I believe that she’s the mayor that Boston needs.”

“With two women on the ballot, it’s very exciting,” said Joseph Oliver, a Hyde Park voter and Wu supporter.

Early voting opened on Saturday in a historic Boston election that will name a woman mayor for the first time. Polling also opened on hotly contested races for city council and on ballot questions, including one that could change the way school committee members are chosen.

As she kicked off early voting with Senator Elizabeth Warren at her side Saturday morning, Wu spoke to the sweeping ambitions of her campaign, saying a Green new deal, housing justice, racial justice, and “the future for our kids” were on the ballot.


“This is the moment we stand up and say Boston can do more and in doing so, we will shape the way for generations to come,” said Wu.

She spoke outside a polling place at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, surrounded by supporters including state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Sheriff Steven Tompkins, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, and Warren, who excited the crowd.

“You want change, you get out and fight for it,” Warren said. “And that means fighting for Michelle Wu.”

Michelle Wu and Senator Elizabeth Warren joined to kick off the first day of early voting during a rally in front of the Boston Public Library.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Wu’s progressive agenda is what inspired Catherine Halpin, an Orient Heights voter concerned about climate change and public transportation, who said she voted for Wu in the Boston Center for Youth Families in East Boston Saturday.

“I love [Wu’s] idea for a free T. I don’t know if that’s going to happen given the MBTA’s situation,” she said. “But I’m liking that she’s thinking of big solutions.”

Voter Joseph McKenney, 83, pushed a walker to get himself to the East Boston polling station to cast a vote for Essaibi George based on her comparably less progressive profile.

“She’s a little more conservative than Miss Wu is,” McKenney said.

Lois and Tony Bartolomi, a couple in their 80s from Orient Heights, said they are worried about drugs and the city’s supply of affordable housing, particularly for middle-income people in their age group.


“They don’t have anything for us. So we’ll end up heading for Florida in a couple of years,” Lois Bartolomi said.

Boston voters can visit select early voting sites through Oct. 29 or submit ballots in designated drop boxes through 8 p.m. on Nov. 2. Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin urged voters who intend to vote by mail to return them before Tuesday, a full week before Election Day to be sure ballots arrive in time.

Voters who still haven’t returned their ballot by Election Day could vote in person at their polling place instead.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia and on Instagram @miltonvalencia617. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.