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A sleepy mayoral campaign nears its end in Boston

Mayor Martin J. Walsh spoke at a luncheon in South Boston.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh sidled up to the luncheon crowd Thursday at Coppersmith in South Boston to tout the city’s job growth, housing units under development, and public safety improvements over his four years in office. The mic wasn’t working — not that it seemed to matter.

“You can hear me, right?” he shouted over the crowd, “I don’t need that,” as he placed the mike down.

Later in the day, Councilor Tito Jackson, a Grove Hall resident, shook hands with patrons in front of a supermarket in Hyde Park, as they wished him well.

“I need you,’’ he told them, as he doled out hugs, handshakes, and snippets of his vision for the city.


“We are voting for you,’’ shoppers shouted from their cars.

The final week before Election Day is when candidates typically make a full-court press to woo voters. But this race has been a relatively low-key campaign, with just two debates, little voter interest, and relatively scant media. Turnout is expected to be a paltry 23 percent on Tuesday, according to election officials.

“This was supposed to be a high-stakes election,” said Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian. “If we’re the hub of politics here, why isn’t there more interest in this?”

Walsh, who was leading Jackson by 35 points in a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll, has until recently confined much of his campaigning to the weekends. Over the fall, he has participated in nearly a dozen neighborhood forums, launched digital and radio advertisements, and held rallies, including a recent Women for Walsh event. On Saturday, he will campaign with US Representative Michael Capuano in Fields Corner.

As Thursday’s lunchtime crowd — mostly retirees — munched on chicken tenders and mashed potatoes, Walsh reminded them, “There’s a lot at stake in an election.


“For the last four years, what we’ve done in the city is work to improve the quality of life in every neighborhood in the city of Boston,” he said.

Jackson has, throughout the campaign, headlined a series of events to reach voters. He has held or attended, throughout the city, “Tito Talks,” “Pop-up tours,’’ a pair of town hall events, and a host of community forums and media interviews.

His campaign recently launched a campaign song, is planning a dance party on Friday night, and will be rolling this weekend on a bus tour – called “Turn Up for Tito and Turn Out” — all in an effort to get people to the polls.

“I’m very excited,’’ he said. “We’re going to — as the young people say — turn up . . . the excitement.”

He criticized the lackluster coverage of the race, saying the campaign has received lackluster coverage and he’s been practically going it alone. Jackson faulted the mayor for using the resources of the incumbency in the campaign “to the fullest degree.”

The mayor came into the race with a clear advantage. He raised more than $5 million, had a massive political organization, including many in Boston’s Democratic establishment, and hired a high-power team to share his message of the work he has been doing for the city in the past four years.

About 2,000 volunteers made about 900,000 calls and knocked on more than 150,000 doors, said John Laadt, the mayor’s campaign manager.

“We’ve obviously working very hard to earn the vote of every Bostonian,’’ Laadt said.


Laadt said Walsh had two aims throughout the campaign – to highlight his administration’s accomplishments and to reintroduce him as the same Dorchester man whom voters elected in 2013.

With five days before the mayoral election in Boston, challenger Tito Jackson campaigned Thursday in Hyde Park, meeting 4-year-old Charm Stephens and Timothy Otoo.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Laadt also rejected criticisms that Walsh has been not treated Jackson as a serious challenger.

“We take the race very seriously,’’ Laadt said.

Jackson announced his bid for mayor in January, just as the mayor’s public profile was rising.

Walsh took a leading role in protesting a series of controversial initiatives from President Trump.

The councilor, meanwhile, switched campaign managers early on, lost ground on funding, and had to catch up with voters across the city.

Whalen, the Boston University professor, said Jackson held himself well at a recent debate — one of only two that featured both candidates on stage. (Jackson had pushed for more, but Walsh agreed to two.).

He said Jackson was able to “make decent points and fair criticism of the Walsh administration” at the debate, “but who watched it?”

“It’s a shame,” he said.

Jackson, in interviews, has focused on the positive aspects of the race, saying the people he’s met throughout the city have encouraged him to make the case for those who feel left behind.

The councilor held his second town hall meeting in Dorchester on Monday, where he released his long-promised fiscal proposal that he said would add an extra $41 million into the Boston Public Schools budget, fund 6,000 youth jobs, and pay for 400 housing vouchers for families facing displacement.


With expectations dim for him on Election Day, Jackson said that until Tuesday, he will be fully focused on making the case to voters what he would bring to the office if elected mayor.

“People have underestimated me my whole life,’’ he said, noting, among other things, that he was born to a 13-year-old rape victim and that he grew up in turbulent Grove Hall. “I was not supposed to be here.”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia. Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.