Boston’s mayoral candidates make their closing arguments
After thousands of handshakes, dozens of speeches, and numerous hugs during months of campaigning, Mayor Martin J. Walsh pulled into a narrow street shortly after 2 p.m. on Sunday to greet about 150 volunteers outside a law office in Hyde Park. On a fold-up table were clipboards and stacks of mailers for the volunteers who would swarm Ward 18, an area with traditionally high participation in elections.
City Councilor Timothy McCarthy thanked the volunteers for their efforts but said the work wouldn’t be over until Walsh gets another four-year term. “We are moving in the right direction. Everybody knows it,’’ said the Readville councilor, who had endorsed Walsh early in the race.
In the final weekend before Election Day, Walsh and his challenger, Councilor Tito Jackson, crisscrossed the city making their closing arguments to voters ahead of Tuesday’s municipal election.
The flurry of recent campaigning — a party downtown, canvass kick-offs, rallies, and Sunday church services — follow what has otherwise been a quiet campaign. Public polls show Walsh leading Jackson by a wide margin, and election officials have predicted low turnout.
At the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church near Grove Hall, Jackson got a warm reception at the 8 a.m. service, at which the Rev. Gregory Groover spoke highly of Jackson’s efforts to raise awareness about income inequality, public education, and the lack of affordable housing in the city.
“This brother is truly being a change agent” on these issues, said Groover, who added that the church was not endorsing anyone in the race. “He knows he’s at home at Charles Street.”
A few hours later, during a service at Roxbury’s Twelfth Baptist Church, where the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, the pastors laid hands on Jackson — and the congregants stretched their hands toward him — as they prayed for his quest to unseat a mayoral incumbent.
“Lord, whatever the obstacles, he still stood tall . . . and held his head up high,’’ said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown.
And the hurdles are high for Jackson. An incumbent mayor has not lost reelection in Boston in nearly 70 years.
A recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll showed him trailing Walsh by 35 percentage points — nearly a mirror of September’s preliminary contest.
In the last stage of the campaigns, both men exuded confidence in stops across the city, including in Mattapan, where a rally was held Sunday to press to keep temporary protected status for Haitians, a federal relief program that had been granted to thousands who fled their homeland after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
“Do I feel good that I’m going to get reelected?’’ Walsh said afterward, repeating a reporter’s question. “I’m not taking anything for granted. So, I’m going to work until the polls close at 8 o’clock [Tuesday night] or until somebody says to me “It’s over, you won.’”
Jackson, who launched his first advertisement of any kind this weekend — a radio spot — kept up his volley of criticisms toward the mayor. He faulted the Walsh’s administration’s handling of the public schools, persistent crime in certain neighborhoods, the soaring costs of housing, and nagging income inequality.
“If things are going great for you, I just encourage you to vote,” Jackson said in a Facebook Live video broadcast this weekend. “But if things aren’t going great for you, things aren’t going great for your family — your rent, your education issues, transportation issues, those issues are out there — you know what? Let’s make a change.”
Walsh began the weekend at his campaign headquarters on Mount Vernon Street in Dorchester, where volunteers — large coffees in hand — greeted him with applause.
“Let’s go! We’ve got to get to work everybody, right?” state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, a longtime Walsh acquaintance, said to cheers.
The mayor, wearing a black windbreaker and dress pants, told supporters, “Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.”
Later in the day, in Fields Corner, the mayor picked up endorsements from Councilor Andrea Campbell and US Representative Michael Capuano.
Outside Homestead Bakery and Café, Capuano said he wasn’t endorsing a candidate, but supporting a friend, saying that a good mayor, like Walsh, has “a head in the right place and heart in the right place.”
Walsh reflected on Fields Corner over the years. It had been home to Irish immigrants and now includes Vietnamese, Latinos, and Cape Verdeans.
“This neighborhood has been in transition for probably 60 years,” he said. “This neighborhood is such a special neighborhood, because it is America.”
Walsh and Jackson appeared side-by-side in Mattapan, and both shook hands at the same time for nearly two hours outside a Roche Bros. supermarket in West Roxbury, the campaigns said.
Walsh, who launched digital and radio ads, said he has heard from residents across the city that more needs to be done to tackle housing costs, create opportunities for economic development in the city’s low-income neighborhoods, and strengthen public education.
“When I talk about the advancement we’ve made in schools . . . when I talk about the graduation rates, people are happy about that, but we need to continue to double that effort now in the next four years,’’ Walsh said.
Jackson’s campaign weekend kicked off his with a Friday party at the Harborside Hotel, intended to give his team of volunteers a reprieve before the get-out-the-vote grind.
The next day, he was at his campaign headquarters in Dudley Square, where, on the wall, a large map showed Boston’s wards and precincts. Seven smartphones were plugged into a charging station.
Jackson’s face smiled back from stacks of leaflets. In the background, a rap song written for the campaign played. In the window, a sign with his name on it had a handwritten message: “We can win! Damn it!”
Jackson spent most of Saturday traveling around Boston with his mother, Rosa Jackson, in an SUV driven by his nephew Justin Brown, among a caravan of his supporters.
He greeted men getting haircuts at Top Notch Barbershop in the South End and pedestrians in Mattapan Square. He shook the hands of parents watching their sons play football at Jimmie Lee Hunt Playground, waved at drivers in Hyde Park’s Cleary Square, and joked he might steal someone’s ice cream at JP Licks in Jamaica Plain. In Cleary Square, two women passing by slowed as the driver called out to Jackson, “We need you!” Not missing a beat, he responded, “I need you too! Tuesday!”