Sure enough, the people emerging from the school pushing strollers – or the people who did not grow up in the neighborhood – identified themselves as supporters of Councilor at Large John R. Connolly. The lifelong residents and blue-collar workers said they were backing state Representative Martin J. Walsh.
Several voters outside the school, home to two of Charlestown’s seven precincts, said they found things to like in both candidates but divided along the candidates’ backgrounds or on their differences over education.
“Both of them seem like good guys. It’s just that I’ve met Marty so many times – so many times around the Town – that I just feel connected to him,” said Lynn Addison, who has lived in Charlestown for all of her 75 years.
“He’s one of us. And even though I have an education, I didn’t get it until later in life, so I like what he stands for,” said Addison, who raised seven children, then went to school at night and became a special education teacher after her husband, a longshoreman, suffered a heart attack. “He’s an everyday person.”
Derek O’Neill, a software engineer who has lived in Charlestown for five years, voted for Connolly mainly because of his support for an education-reform platform that includes more charter schools.
“My wife actually works at a charter school, and it’s doing really great things for the community in Dorchester,” said O’Neill, 28.
Turnout at the Edwards School – halfway between the Bunker Hill Monument and Sullivan Square—was about twice what it was in September’s preliminary election at midday, but Warden James Lewis said he expected to hit only about 30 percent, with an engaged but not electrified electorate. “There’s a lot of interest,” he said. “It’s just not what it should be.”
Codman Square Library, Dorchester: To reach the polling area, the steady trickle of voters had to pass the animated, if genial, argument between James Horton, a supporter of John R. Connolly, and Keith George, whose red Martin J. Walsh for Mayor sweatshirt attested to his sympathies.
“John’s a man of great integrity, he knows city politics, as a city councilor he’s done a great job, and as a teacher he’s done a great job,” said Horton, who had a list of addresses he planned to visit to get out the vote.
“Martin Walsh grew up in our neighborhood,” countered George, who was handing out fliers written in Haitian Creole. “Marty Walsh knows the struggle that we have in this city, in this neighborhood here, and Marty Walsh is for giving somebody a second chance at trying to better themselves.”
But Connolly supporters generally expressed the opinion that he had the more personal touch of the two candidates.
“”When he comes in the community, if it’s even a small child, he pays attention to that small child,” said Shirley Shillingford, president of the city’s annual Caribbean Carnival. “It doesn’t matter if you’re elderly, if you are just a child. It doesn’t matter, he pays attention. He doesn’t just shake hands and run off.”
Walsh supporters referred to what they characterized as his history in support of job creation.
“He’s for the working people of Boston,” said Dan Donovan, who works in the construction business. “If there’s anyone who will continue bringing work to Boston, which is the main thing that keeps this city going, it’s going to be Marty.”
Walsh’s endorsements by the three top minority finishers in the June primary election also resonated with some voters.
“He seems to be a good candidate for the minorities, especially with the Hispanics,” said Ruben A. Flores, who works in senior services. “I believe he is going to do a lot of change here and continue the legacy that Menino’s leaving behind.”
Dudley Square, Roxbury: Voters here in the heart of Boston and its minority community seemed divided between John R. Connolly and Martin J. Walsh in the race for mayor. At lunchtime, as voters made their way out of the polls at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club, there was a lot of talk of education and social programs, gut feeling and tough choices, but no clear favorite for the neighborhood.
Lorenda Hollins, a 43-year-old health worker, said she found the decision so tricky that she spent time on the computer before coming to the polls, rereading the candidates’ positions.
“It was a tough decision, but I voted for Connolly,” she said. “I like the fact that he’s married, well-educated, went to Harvard, and he’s seeking to better our school system. And I like the idea of breaking up the BRA. They have terrible communications in the community. You turn around, and there’s a new project going up.”
George Turner, 79, voted for Walsh, saying that what pushed him toward the candidate was his endorsements from many of the elected officials in the communities of color.
Aisha Payne, 20, was voting in her first mayoral election. She said she had a tough time voting against Walsh—“He sent my mother an oven mitt”—but ultimately decided to cast her ballot for Connolly because she thought to many of the Walsh supporters were in it for the promise of landing jobs on his coattails.
Then there were those who went with their guy.
“I think he’s the man for the job,” James Williams, 68, said of Walsh. “He just looks like he’s the man.”
Jasmine Talbert, 33, said her gut told her the opposite. “I just feel better about Connolly.’’
Elihu Greenwood School, Hyde Park: By afternoon, a slow but steady steam of voters headed into the Greenwood School. Marie St. Fleur, an aide to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, handed out Martin J. Walsh campaign literature and greeted each potential voters in English and Haitian-Creole.
“Thank you for coming out. Vote for Marty Walsh and Jean-Claude,’’ she said, referring for Jean-Claude Sanon, who is running for District 5 on the City Council.
Jackie Neely, a 55-year-old unemployed resident of Hyde Park, said she voted for Connolly, adding that she was impressed with his message to reform the school system.
Tony Simmons, 46, said that throughout the race he couldn’t decide which of the two mayoral candidates to voter for, but last week he and his family decided to pick Walsh.
“I liked what he was saying about education, crime and community development,’’ said Simmons as he left the polling station. “Their views were pretty much the same. But for me, Walsh’s views were stronger.”
MEGHAN E. IRONS
Boston Public Library, Copley Square: Ward 5 voters cast ballots in a pair of fluorescent-lit conference rooms on the library’s lower level. By 12:45 p.m., 341 voters in precinct 8 and 361 voters in precinct 7 had turned out.
On the sidewalk outside, parking signs were festooned with campaign posters, and a couple of volunteers from City Council races held signs for their candidates. The mayoral campaigns had no pollstanders.
Judie Pierce, who works at Saks Fifth Avenue and described herself as “over 70,” said she voted for John R. Connolly.
“I think he’s better qualified,” she said. “I think he’d be a better mayor. I think he represents a broader spectrum of people. It seems as though Marty Walsh is labor connected; I think John Connolly is looking at a bigger picture.”
Joan Christison-Lagay, 66,a former teacher who now works in public health, chose Connolly, as well. She said she was interested in his plans to improve the schools and, like Pierce, felt a bit wary of Walsh’s union ties.
Christison-Lagay used to work in Hartford, where she said most parents who were educated and cared about their children’s schools fled the city, leaving behind a deeply impoverished and poorly educated population in the city schools.
“He has his kid in the Boston schools, that was important to me,” she said of Connolly.
Honan-Allston Branch Library: Maybe it was the candy. Ward clerks at the Honan-Allston Branch Library, who served up Tootsie rolls and mints to voters as they checked in to cast their ballots, said voting was brisk.
The three precincts there recorded more than 400 voters by shortly before noon. Among those casting a ballot was Richard Gallagher, a 50-year-old painter sporting a black Local 577 union jacket.
“I’d rather vote for Menino, he’s been a good mayor,” Gallagher said. He said he voted for Martin J. Walsh because “he’s for unions.”
Also voting was James Jacobs, the 52-year-old nigh time host at WGBH Radio. A recent New York City transplant, Jacobs said he moved to Boston to get his “dream” job, “but I can’t afford to live here.”
Jacobs said he hoped the next mayor will “do something for affordable housing,” though he said he had not heard much talk of that among either mayoral candidate. He declined to say who he voted for.
Holy Name School, in West Roxbury: The scene was festive and busy. Dozens of union workers for Martin Walsh waved signs around the Holy Name rotary, while Connolly supporters complained quietly about whether the Walsh crews were from labor organizations outside the city. Voters said they were excited to elect a new mayor after so many years with Menino in office, and many seemed strongly loyal to their candidate.
Marrena Lindberg, 47, said she is “a progressive person’’ who voted because she does not want more “conservative’’ candidates in office. “I support labor and I don’t like charter schools,’’ said Lindberg, who voted for Walsh.
Emily Engler, 34, said she has known Connolly a long time and is a supporter. “I grew up with his family. John was always focused on doing good.’’ Engler said she “really liked Menino, but it was time for him to go. No matter how well someone is doing they get stale.’’ She said certain neighborhoods, including Mattapan and even parts of Hyde Park, where the mayor lives, need more investment and ideas.
“I vote in every single election,’’ she said. “But for a non-presidential election, this is pretty good turnout.’’
Jane Kilgannon, 43, also came to vote for Connolly. “Mayor Menino did a great job working to grow Boston greener,’’ she said. “But we need a fresh perspective. We’re a vibrant community and we need to keep moving forward. We need to keep young people coming to Boston and get them to stay to build their families. The schools are the foundation.’’
St. George Orthodox Church in West Roxbury: Turnout was solid here early, with nearly 60 people voting by 7:45 in Ward 20, Precinct 14.
“I think it’s time for the city to have new leadership and move ahead,” said Tanya Chakmakian, of West Roxbury, who was voting with son Adam, almost 7, in tow. “Not that Menino has done a bad job, it’s just time for a change.”
Dave Foley of West Roxbury was voting for John Connolly, who lives in the neighborhood.
“I’ve known John for a long time. They’re both good candidates, but I’ve gravitated towards John. We’re kind of lucky to have both good young guys.”
David Ladd of West Roxbury, a plumbing contractor and builder, also voted for Connolly.
“He seems to be dedicated to reforming the Boston schools and with a 3 year old, that’s very important to us.”
Ladd, holding the hand of son William, also likes Connolly’s focus in early education and his ideas on revamping the building permit process.
Garo Youssoufian, who voted for Connolly, noted that the new mayor could appoint a new police superintendent and school superintendent. He said that Walsh could have been more transparent on where outside money was coming from.
Colin Santangelo, a 2007 graduate of Boston Latin, liked Connolly’s stance in education. Youths should get the same opportunity for a good education, he said.
Curley Community Center, South Boston: Supporters for Martin J. Walsh and John R. Connolly were out in force, and turnout was steady around lunchtime.
Bethany Vaughn, 37, a former teacher who is now a stay-at-home mother, said she supported Connolly.
“I was really undecided till I saw a post on Facebook by a friend. Some of the comments by Connolly supporters really hit home for me. Up until that I thought I was going to vote for Walsh.” “I’m a new parent so schools are important to me. I also think the violence in the neighborhoods is especially concerning.” “I honestly thought they had very similar platforms, so I don’t think they will have a hard time reaching out (to opposition).” “It really boils down to how well they work with other people and the relationships they build.”
She also voted for Suzanne Lee in her effort to unseat District 2 City Councilor Bill Linehan. “I’m a bit of a feminist, so I like to support female candidates,” Vaughan said.
PATRICK D. ROSSO