Former city employee Frank Baker of Savin Hill and Cedar Grove civic activist John O’Toole will face off for the District 3 City Council seat in the November election after emerging first and second from a seven-person preliminary scrum on Tuesday.
Baker picked up 2,336 votes, while O’Toole snagged 1,915, according to unofficial numbers released by the Boston Election Department. O’Toole battled with Neponset realtor Craig Galvin for the second spot, edging him by just 150 votes. Just over 7,400 Dorchester voters (about 21.5 percent of 34,444 registered voters) cast ballots in the District 3 race.
Baker was catapulted to first place with lopsided vote totals in his home precincts in Columbia-Savin Hill’s ward 13, where he was the anticipated favorite. But Baker also won four precincts in ward 16 —in the St. Mark’s and Fields Corner areas— which were key battleground sections in the contest on Tuesday. Baker won 13 of the 28 precincts across the district and posted solid third place numbers in key polling stations like Florian Hall. (Editor's note/correction: There are actually 30 precincts in the district.)
“This was a difficult race to jump into. You have to have a lot of faith. But we built that steam all the way through,” Baker told a crowd of supporters who gathered at Florian Hall after the polls had closed. “We have six more weeks ahead of us.”
At the Old Dorchester Post in Adams Corner, O’Toole called himself the “luckiest man on earth” and thanked his supporters. “We had difficult times, but it’s friends and family that get you through,” he said.
O’Toole then hugged City Councillor Maureen Feeney, who has endorsed him.
“I have four wonderful sisters and now I feel like I have one more,” he quipped.
O’Toole was most impressive at Florian Hall, where he posted 484 votes at the two precincts, outpacing his closest rival Craig Galvin by 155 votes. O’Toole won nine of the district’s 30 precincts, including the Adams Street Library, one precinct at the old St. Mark’s School and the VietAid Community Center in Fields Corner.
O’Toole credited Mayor Thomas Menino’s political hands for helping with his campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts.
“We had the people, but you need to know what to do with them once you’ve got them. The guidance of the mayor’s office really made it all seem to click,” he said.
O’Toole also praised leaders in the Vietnamese, Cape Verdean, and Haitian communities, who, he said, “made the difference tonight.”
O’Toole said he would focus on other parts of the district as the November election approached.
“[Savin Hill’s]13-10 is a gigantic number so we have to work harder in 13-10,” he said, referring to lopsided vote total posted by Baker in that precinct. The voting location is at the Cristo Rey School in Savin Hill, directly across from Baker’s campaign headquarters, and where Baker picked up 456 votes, or 74 percent of the tally. O’Toole received 62 votes at that location.
“There’s a lot of votes on the table, folks,” he told the crowd. “There’s a lot of votes to be had.”
Feeney, who has held the seat since 1993, also sought to rev up the O’Toole crowd and noted the high number of candidates at “this end of the district.”
“I’ve served this district for so long and for me, I really want to leave it in the hands of someone who loves it as much as I do,” she said. “He’s proven himself to be a leader.”
The Baker camp will also be focusing on those who voted for the other candidates.
“There’s no key trick to winning over other voters,” said state Rep. Marty Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat and union chief who was instrumental in helping Baker secure the top spot. “You can sway the other candidates to show support for you, but it comes down to reaching out to the individual voters, and Frank can do that.”
Baker said his strategy will be largely the same over the next six weeks: door-knocking. “I think people want someone that’s going to work this job full time,” he said. “I quit my job and I became a full-time candidate.”
His brother James cut in: “And sincerity goes a long way, too. They could feel Frank’s sincerity. We have no canned lines; Frank is who he is.”
O’Toole and Baker spent much of the day focused on Florian Hall, where 1,101 voters cast ballots. O’Toole won the bellwether neighborhood, which has two precincts and drove turnout in Dorchester throughout the day. But, while Baker’s dominance in Savin Hill’s smaller, but potent, precincts allowed him to spend extra time focusing on Neponset, where Galvin and O’Toole were the favorites.
As numbers trickled into campaign headquarters on Tuesday night, Baker surged to a lead, with O’Toole and Galvin jockeying for the second-place slot. Galvin posted strong numbers at the fire station on Neponset Ave. (16-7, 16-10) and was a strong second to O’Toole at several other key ward 16 polling stations. But he won just four precincts outright. Galvin called O’Toole soon after the polls closed to concede.
“I think we worked our tail off,” Galvin said after his election night party in DBar on Dorchester Avenue. “I think the experience for the people I was involved with was wonderful. I think we’re comfortable that we left everything we had on the field.”
“We ran a great campaign and tomorrow I get to go back to being me and I get to sell Dorchester every day,” Galvin told the crowd, referring to his real estate agency on Neponset Ave., The Galvin Group.
“I continue to believe that Dorchester is a great place and we have some work to do and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”
Galvin declined to say whom he would be endorsing, if anybody.
The Baker and O’Toole camps will turn to Galvin and the other four candidates and their supporters, who earned a combined 3,164 votes.
Doug Bennett, a former Nantucket selectman who ran for Boston City Council At-Large in 2009 and finished in eighth place, landed in fourth place in the District 3 race, according to unofficial figures, with 703 votes, or 9.49 percent of the full tally.
Marydith Tuitt, an aide to state Rep. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), earned 334 votes, while Stephanie Everett, until this summer an aide to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), picked up 266.
Marty Hogan, an information technology consultant who has run for City Council At-Large, was the choice on 63 ballots.
Jackie Gentile contributed to this report.