After six months of community forums, candidates knocking at their doors and political literature raining on their porch, Dorchester voters go to the polls on Tuesday to pick a successor to retiring City Councillor Maureen Feeney.
Savin Hill’s Frank Baker, a former employee of the now-defunct city printing shop, and Cedar Grove’s John O’Toole, a realtor and former plumber, emerged from a seven-way primary in September as the top two vote-getters, with Baker topping the ticket by 422 votes.
Both candidates have touted their backgrounds, with O’Toole pointing to his time atop the Cedar Grove Civic Association, a lawsuit nearly a decade ago over the city’s school assignment policy, and opposition to an auto repair facility in Adams Village. Baker emphasizes his work in running a Dorchester Avenue restaurant that was eventually sold, coaching youth baseball and soccer, and a brief tenure as vice president of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association.
Each candidate has raised nearly $100,000 for the battle, according to tallies of bank-reported figures from the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF): Over the last six months, Baker pulled in $94,628, while O’Toole took in $95,700. Baker has spent money at a faster rate, burning through $90,318 as O’Toole spent $69,376.
In just the month of October, Baker raised about $21,100 and spent $26,146. He had an account balance of $4,308 at the end of the month, according to OCPF. O’Toole raised $33,995 and spent $24,824, according to his campaign.
The latest numbers were not available on the OCPF website as the Reporter went to press, but O’Toole’s campaign said it had $26,348 in cash on hand at the end of October.
Some donors are hedging their bets: Jim Byrne, who was Feeney’s predecessor on the City Council, donated $200 to each campaign. The Dorchester attorney served on the City Council for a decade and now often has business before city and state boards.
Each candidate has vehement backing of heavyweights in the neighborhood – Feeney is with O’Toole and state Rep. Marty Walsh is supporting Baker – and the two prospective pols have continued to rack up endorsements from unions and newspapers as Nov. 8 draws closer.
O’Toole on Tuesday picked up endorsements from the Boston Globe and the Herald, with the latter saying he would be a “seamless” fit for the 13-member City Council. The Boston Phoenix endorsed Baker last week.
Baker also continued to announce endorsements, including those of seven unions: AFSCME Local 419, Boston School Custodians Local 1952, Glaziers Local 1044, Painters District Council 35, Painters Local 939, Roofers Local 33, and Tunnel Workers Local 88.
The close contest, Dorchester’s first open City Council seat in nearly 18 years, has put the only other race on the district’s ballot in the backseat. Seven candidates are vying for four at-large seats, including the four incumbents running for reelection.
The incumbents include Stephen Murphy, who is currently serving a term as City Council president; the attorney and former teacher John Connolly; the former union organizer Felix Arroyo; and Ayanna Pressley, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
Former City Councillor Michael Flaherty threw his hat into the ring earlier this year, hoping to snag back his old seat, which he gave up to run for mayor in 2009. Hyde Park’s Will Dorcena and Jamaica Plain’s Sean Ryan are also running.
Voters in Districts 2, 4 and 7 will also go to the polls. Incumbents Bill Linehan and Tito Jackson face challenges from newcomers to the political scene. In District 4, the council’s longest sitting member Charles Yancey faces nominal opposition from J.R. Rucker, a perennial challenger.
South Boston’s Linehan will be on the ballot with Suzanne Lee, a former school principal who topped the preliminary ticket in September, while Linehan finished four points behind her after facing off against another Southie candidate, Bob Ferrara.
Jackson, who lives in the Dorchester part of District 7, which mainly includes Roxbury, will be facing Sheneal Parker, a teacher and former community organizer for the Mattapan Community Development Corporation. The winner of a special election in March after former City Councillor Chuck Turner was ousted over bribery charges, Jackson waltzed through the four-way Sept. preliminary with 76 percent of the vote.
Snapshot looks at the District 3 candidates:
FRANK BAKER: Baker, 43, is a former city employee who grew up in St. Margaret’s Parish and now lives on Grampian Way in Savin Hill. He worked in the city of Boston’s Printing Department from 1987 to 2010, and served as a shop steward for a decade. He is a 1986 graduate of Don Bosco Technical High School, and has coached youth baseball, soccer, and basketball programs. On the political side, he was worked on the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) and state Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Dorchester). Endorsements include former state Sen. Steve Tolman, state Representatives Walsh, Linda Dorcena Forry, Nick Collins and Carlos Henriquez, the Boston Teachers Union, Firefighters Local 718, and IBEW Local 2222, among others.
“It’s my race, it’s John and me. I mean, it’s the candidate that’s going to win. It’s not the endorsements,” Baker told the Reporter. “People are making a big thing out of all these endorsements. But it’s the person that works the hardest that’s going to win. The person that makes the most contact. I’ve said this right from the beginning. You have to get in front of people and say, ‘Hi, I’m Frank, I’m going to be here for you.’ They need to know that they’re going to call me and I’m going to call back.”
JOHN O’TOOLE: O’Toole, 47, is a former head of the Cedar Grove Civic Association. He lives on Minot Street in Neponset. He served as president of the civic group for 14 years, and led an effort a decade ago to sue the city over its school assignment policy. A realtor and former plumber, O’Toole has served on the Leahy Holloran Community Center Council and the St. Brendan Parish Council. He was also a co-chair of the Irish Heritage Festival in Adams Village. He is a former chairman of the Old Time Political Rally in Adams Corner. Endorsements include retiring City Councillor Maureen Feeney, his plumbers union, IBEW Local 103, SEIU 1199, Darnell Williams, and City Councillors Rob Consalvo, Sal LaMattina, and Mark Ciommo, among others.
“I recognize what the job entails,” O’Toole told the Reporter. “It’s the front line of constituent services. You know, being civic president for as long as I did is almost councillor-in-training. Because what you’re doing is, you’re the first call that a lot of these people make when they have an issue, and it’s not just city issues. You’re the conduit to all things. You’re the conduit to things state, you’re the conduit to things federal, you know, personal issues for families, employment, people out of jobs."