City Limits: Meet Boston’s 2013 Mayoral Candidates
State Representative Marty Walsh looks like a dad from a 1950s sitcom. His hair is always gelled, and he favors the tucked-in polo shirt, which is what he was rocking at the Haitian–American Unity Parade. It was the first time the 16-year Dorchester representative had marched in the procession through Mattapan, and it was a shrewd move: There are some 20,000 Haitians in Boston. Just a few weeks before, Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian–American, had won the primary for the state Senate’s so-called Southie Seat, a post traditionally held by Irishmen, among them Billy Bulger and Stephen Lynch.
Caribbean music was blasting all down Blue Hill Avenue as Walsh, 46, introduced himself to people along the parade’s sidelines. “How are you, hon? How are you, dear? I’m Marty Walsh, I’m running for mayor.” Addressing people here as “hon” and “dear” felt a little bit like bringing corned beef and cabbage to a beach party, but Walsh seemed to be getting a decent response. He spied former state Representative Marie St. Fleur along the side of the route—she’s a native Haitian and an old friend from their time in the House together.
“Marie,” he shouted, “you want to march? C’mon, honey, we’re ready for you!” When St. Fleur laughed Walsh off, he explained that she had endorsed another candidate, John Barros. “Unfortunately, that’s what happens in these races,” he said.
For much of the rest of the parade, St. Fleur and Barros, who proudly speaks of being the city’s first Cape Verdean mayoral candidate, zipped up and down the sidewalks nearby. “John Barros! That’s not fair,” Walsh shouted at his fellow candidate as St. Fleur made introductions in Creole. “That’s not fair, John Barros!” Laughing, Barros shot back, “Marty, join the party! Work the crowd, Marty, get in there!”
The flip side of this coin is that while Barros has struggled to raise money (he had only $70,000 in the bank at the end of June), Walsh, the candidate with the strongest union ties, is near the top of the fundraising pack (he had $416,000 at that same point). An experienced pol, he had flexed big muscle at his kickoff event a couple of weeks before, packing a crowd of more than 1,000 into Dorchester’s Strand Theatre. There’s no doubt that Walsh has a strong base in Dorchester—with almost 115,000 residents, still the city’s largest neighborhood by more than 65,000 people—to back him up. But then again, it might not be that simple. There are other Dorchester candidates, such as Bill Walczak and Charlotte Golar Richie, who could siphon off votes. Walsh likes to point out that his district is 56 percent minority, but some of those votes may split off to other candidates as well. Right now, how it’ll all play out is a mystery. As Walsh put it, “I don’t think anyone has a clue.”