Reporter's Notebook: Gubernatorial hopefuls eyeing Walsh volunteers

With his supporters flooding the streets of Boston on the day of the preliminary election in September, Marty Walsh’s field organization was the envy of rival campaigns. On Election Day in November, the organization had people at every Red Line stop on the Dorchester leg of the transit system, pulling voters to their polling locations.

Now gubernatorial candidates are hoping that those same volunteers, who were spotted wearing red shirts proclaiming their support for the Dorchester Democrat, will be sporting their team colors this year. Asked last week if he had requested Walsh’s support, State Treasurer Steven Grossman, one of the five Democratic contenders looking to succeed Gov. Deval Patrick, said, “I certainly will. And I think every candidate will.”

The others running for the Democratic nomination include Attorney General Martha Coakley, former Obama administration officials Don Berwick and Juliette Kayyem, and health care executive Joseph Avellone. Charlie Baker, who unsuccessfully ran in 2010, is considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Several independents are also mounting bids, but most of the drama will likely be on the Democratic side, as candidates attempt to out-do each other in adherence to, and advancement of, liberal tenets.

In a sit-down at the Flat Back Coffee shop across from Ashmont MBTA Station, Grossman outlined, in broad strokes, his strategy.

“Our number one goal in the next few months is to really motivate and create an army of activists,” he said, with his top political aide, DJ Napolitano, sitting next to him. “Remember, 2013 was a year when special elections were non-stop. And plus the mayor’s race in Boston.” There was the US Senate race that Ed Markey won, and then Katherine Clark won Markey’s Congressional seat.

“So it’s been relentlessly one after the other. And I think people were justifiably exhausted, politically, and wanted to take some time,” Grossman said. “The governor’s race has not been a principal focus, until really right now, and I understand that.”

The treasurer, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002, said he had a team of a half-dozen people focused on organizing support. “If there were two words that I’d like people to use to describe me, it’s: ‘He’s everywhere.’ And we try to be relentlessly in motion,” he said. “Last night it was the Mansfield Democratic Town Committee. Tonight it’s going to be Gloucester. Saturday is Salem.”

He turned to Napolitano to check. “Is that this Saturday or is that next Saturday?” “Saturday is Lowell and Rockport,” Napolitano said. “Lowell and Rockport,” Grossman said. “Next Saturday is Salem. Salem, Lincoln, it’s all over. Salem, Lincoln, Lexington, I mean, it’s everywhere.”

Caucuses start on Feb. 8. Dorchester’s Ward 15 Democratic Committee will have its session that day at 10 a.m. inside the Savin Hill Apartments on Auckland Street. The caucuses offer an opportunity for candidates to organize and prepare for the June 14 Democratic state convention before they move on to the September primary.

“So many primaries in the last few years have been fairly low-turnout events,” Grossman said. “So in a low-turnout primary, if that’s what takes place, the army of activists is what makes the difference between winning an election and not.”

Grossman pointed to his marketing communications company and said he is the “only Democrat running for governor who has spent a lifetime in my own fourth-generation family business, creating jobs.” The company is in its 62d year as a union shop, and they’ve had paid family leave for 25 years, “so we run the business in a very progressive way.”

“My goal, fundamentally, is to leave no one behind,” he added. “And jobs and economic security to me is the critical issue that trumps almost every other. So that’s where I’m going to spend most of my time focusing first and foremost. A, it differentiates me from all my competition; and B, it’s going to create the energy and the optimism in the small business sector that I think will make Massachusetts a place where a lot of growth can take place in the years ahead.”

Grossman plans a tour of the state similar to the one he embarked on when he ran for treasurer in 2010. An ice cream fan, he hit as many shops as he could, as a way to talk to potential voters about his candidacy for treasurer. This year’s tour kicks off in Attleboro sometime in late March or early April, at Bliss Brothers. He said he senses activists are ready to jump back onto the campaign trail after a long year. “People are starting to say, ‘I took a deep breath, I took Christmas vacation off, and now I’m ready to get engaged again,’” he said.

Signatures scramble in 13th Suffolk

The field of potential candidates vying to succeed Marty Walsh at the State House remains in flux. Both Dan Hunt and Gene Gorman, two neighborhood activists, were scheduled to hold their kick-offs this week, and both were spotted grabbing nomination signatures for their bids. Hunt, an attorney who has worked at the State House and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, jumped in first, racking up funds and signatures early on.

Other potential candidates like Liam Curran and PJ McCann, two attorneys, have also pulled nomination papers. Candidates must gather 150 signatures from voters and turn them in to local elections officials by next Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Tony Dang, an activist in the Vietnamese-American community who opened a campaign finance committee in order to raise funds for the seat, said Tuesday that he was still mulling whether to run in the special election or hold off and run in the fall election. “It’s either do both or at the minimum, September,” he said. Later, Dang announced plans for a campaign kick-off on Sun., Jan. 26 at Van Shabu, a Dorchester Ave. restaurant.

The primary is set for March 4, followed by a general special election on April 1. The winner, who will be filling the remainder of Walsh’s term, will have to run again in the fall for the full two-year term.

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