On a hill in Jamaica Plain, behind a row of homes on Peter Parley Road that share a backyard, the mayoral hopefuls weaved their way through the crowd of voters at the Ward 11 Democratic Committee’s picnic.
Grinning, Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley slipped in next to actor Danny Glover to get a photograph of him and the “Lethal Weapon” star, who was in Boston to support former School Committee member John Barros for mayor. Dorchester state Rep. Marty Walsh held a Polar Seltzer can in his hand as he chatted with voters about education and public safety, as his neighbor and fellow mayoral candidate Bill Walczak stood in the shade and did the same around the corner. City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo, who was on his home turf, having moved to Jamaica Plain’s Wachusett Street more than a decade ago, was taking some friendly fire: A veteran organizer, who had been highly sought after by several mayoral contenders, playfully teased him about the results of a Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire poll released on Saturday night that showed most of the candidates bunched up, though it put the organizer’s candidate, Charlotte Golar Richie, in second place.
“No, stop it, stop it,” Arroyo said with a laugh. “You know you’re number one in my heart,” said Anne Rousseau, the organizer and co-chair of Ward 11. “I know, I know. I want to be number one on the ballot, though,” Arroyo said, laughing again.
“What the poll showed is also what I’ve been encountering and that is that there are a lot of voters who are out there weighing their options and that is in fact very real,” Arroyo told the Reporter afterwards. “What we find is when we have conversations with undecided voters at their doorstep and on their telephone, that we’re able to secure them as supporters. We do find that and that’s why we spend so much time on the doors, talking to voters, and having those conversations.”
On Saturday, they recorded a thousand “ones” – people who identify themselves as supporters at the end of a phone call, Arroyo added. A “one” is a yes, they’re voting for the candidate, a “two” is an “I think so,” a “three” is an “I don’t know,” a “four” is an “I don’t think so,” and a “five” is a “no.”
Arroyo is also forgoing direct mail and has volunteers dropping off campaign literature, in newsprint form, at voters’ doorsteps, much like he did in his bids for one of the city’s four at-large council seats. “I’m going De Blasio here,” Arroyo added, a reference to Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayoral candidate who reportedly did not send mailers to voters and instead focused on a strong television ad featuring his biracial son.
“I have no plans to do snail mail,” Arroyo said. “And it’s because we believe the best way to win this race is to have conversations, and that’s not a conversation. We want to talk to you at your door, we want to talk to you on the phone. That’s how invested I am in grassroots organizing as the way of winning this particular – this race.”
But polls are showing voters remain undecided: Nineteen percent, according to the Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll released yesterday morning that showed City Councillor At-Large John Connolly in the top slot, picking up 16 percent of the vote with Conley and Walsh at 12 percent. The survey also showed Golar Richie surging, with 10 percent, as the Herald dubbed her the “wild card” candidate.
At the Jamaica Plain party, Rousseau pitched her candidate, who swung through the picnic later in the day. Golar Richie’s experience as a Dorchester state representative in the 1990s, and as Mayor Thomas Menino’s housing chief afterwards, are key for her, said Rousseau, whose first campaign was state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s first run for office, in 2006. Rousseau, who has boxes of pens and 200 clipboards sitting in her basement, also worked on Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaigns. “I think she understands the interconnectedness of the issues,” she said of Golar Richie. “She understands the complexity of running a city.”
Farther down the pathway behind the homes sat Danny Glover as a steady stream of voters came up to grab a photo on their smart phones. Glover said he met Barros when the candidate was 19, through Gus Newport, former mayor of Berkeley, CA, who once served as executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
Glover has some experience in city government: He worked for San Francisco in the 1980s, he said while pointing to Barros’s tenure as Newport’s successor at the nonprofit – where he provided people with “direct access to change” – as something that qualifies him for the top job.
Sitting a few feet away from Glover was state Rep. Liz Malia, a Jamaica Plain lawmaker who is backing her colleague, Rep. Walsh. Malia, who entered the State House around the same time Walsh did and has worked on substance abuse issues with him in the Legislature, marveled at the size of the field and a renewed sense of vigor in city politics. “It’s hard for people to get any visibility, on one hand,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s good for the process. There’s a lot of new blood.”
She said she expects Jamaica Plain to support Golar Richie, Arroyo, Barros, and Ross. “Nobody knows who is going to end up going to the top,” she added. “People are reluctant to commit. You start looking at one person and you see the quality of the people out there. It’s hard.”