When every day is Election Day: Candidates push to the finish line

The DJ spoke in a slow baritone as several dozen people gathered Saturday on the street corner across from the MBTA station and next to a cell phone store on Blue Hill Avenue. 

“Mattapan, are you ready for a new mayor?” he asked. “Are you ready for Kim Janey? This is a new era that’s coming.”

The acting mayor wasn’t there yet, but Charles Yancey had already arrived, and he was back in glad-hand mode, reveling in the experience of former constituents recognizing and greeting him.

Yancey lost the City Council seat he held for 32 years to Andrea Campbell in 2015. She is now running for mayor, on the ballot with Janey, Councillors Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu, and former city economic development chief John Barros. Yancey, whose 2015 campaign was run by Janey’s uncle, is backing the acting mayor.

Under a tent a few feet away, Janey campaign volunteers passed out clipboards with talking points to supporters. Deb Shah, a veteran of Deval Patrick’s campaign for governor and other local races, made her way through the crowd, a phone to her ear with Janey on the line.

Voting was already underway. Saturday served as the first day of early voting at sites around Boston, including City Hall, and mail-in voting had started even earlier. It was Labor Day weekend, and with their ads saturating television screens across the city and the preliminary election just 11 days away, the five campaigns fanned out across the city.

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Just past noon, Janey stepped out onto Mattapan Square, stopping to dance to “We Are Family” with her granddaughter Rosie before taking the microphone. “I am here to ask for your vote,” Janey said. “You can vote today.”

With Councillor Ricardo Arroyo and Yancey by her side, Janey added: “Let’s not squander our opportunity to do the work together, to create a stronger Boston that includes all of us. That is the work that is before us. That is what is at stake in this election.”

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Essaibi George spent Saturday afternoon in East Boston, knocking on doors in the neighborhood where she was a high school teacher for 13 years. There is a misconception, she said, that many people leave the city for Labor Day weekend.
She had heard some “good feedback” while out and about as more people were tuning into the five-way race.

“I noticed the shift, I’d say, probably two weeks ago, maybe three weeks ago, on the doors,” she said. “People are finally starting to say, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s a mayor’s race happening soon.’”

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On Friday, MassINC Polling Group released a survey of 453 Boston voters who took part in the 2020 presidential election. Different from a likely voter poll, which focuses on one type of turnout model, the MassINC poll showed Wu in the lead at 30 percent, but 19 percent undecided. Janey, Essaibi George, Campbell, and Barros followed Wu, in that order. But when the poll — conducted for the groups Policy for Progress, New Democracy Coalition, and Housing Forward-MA — factored in most-likely voters, Essaibi George came in second behind Wu.

“I’m always fascinated by the crosstabs because we looked at the MassINC poll with the likely municipal voters for this race,” Essaibi George said. “It very clearly reflects what we’re hearing, what we’re feeling, and what we’re seeing when we’re counting votes, reaching city residents, engaging both the super voter that every campaign is and should be targeting, but also the less likely voter. I think it’s important up until the last moment to engage our city’s residents who don’t normally come out.”

A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released a week before election day asked 500 likely preliminary voters for their first choice. Wu received 31 percent, Janey took 20 percent, Essaibi George picked up 19 percent, Campbell had 18 percent and Barros came in with 3 percent. The undecided vote stood at 8 percent.

Wu was found to be winning 50 percent of residents who lived in the city 10 years or less, 43 percent of voters considering themselves “very liberal,” and 40 percent of voters ages 18 to 34. Janey had a 61 percent job approval rating, and led all candidates among Black voters with 46 percent, according to Suffolk pollster David Paleologos. Essaibi George won voters who call crime their top issue and conservatives. Campbell was seen as the top second choice among all voters.

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A few steps away, Wu was talking to voters outside East Boston’s community center on Paris Street, an early voting site. “It’s going to come down to who ends up showing up at the polls,” she said, when asked about the MassINC survey. “We are working on the ground in every single neighborhood, trying to visit every playground and door to remind people that September matters as much as November, and the opportunity to vote, the window, is already here.”

Paris Street was her sixth stop of the day. Her campaign had sent out volunteers to knock on doors near early voting sites to remind people the city is having early voting during a municipal election for the first time. “It’s been slow but steady throughout the day, in terms of voters coming in the different polling places we’ve been at,” she said.
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Barros spent his 48th birthday on Sunday canvassing Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, while Team Campbell greeted voters in Jamaica Plain on Saturday and in Allston on Sunday.
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The five candidates converged in Back Bay on Monday, across the street from the Marriott at Copley Place, as unions took aim at the hotel for laying off workers in 2020.

The region’s unions typically hold a breakfast on Labor Day, but the event was moved outside with the city still grappling with the coronavirus. Most wore masks to the rally.

One by one, the mayoral candidates grabbed the microphone.

“I will always stand with the hotel workers,” said Janey, whose campaign is receiving support from UNITE HERE Local 26 and its super PAC.

Wu pledged to use “every lever of power in city government” to make sure workers are protected.

“I’ll never take you for granted,” said Campbell, while Essaibi George, who was endorsed by the nurses’ union, noted that they remain on strike at a Worcester hospital.

Noting that he worked for Labor Secretary Marty Walsh when the Dorchester Democrat held the top job in City Hall, Barros pledged to be a “champion” for unions. “Every day in Boston is Labor Day,” he said.

For the next several days, and until Nov. 2, every day will be Election Day, too.