(Bill Greene/Globe Staff)
West Roxbury: A gold medalist pulling for the underdog
Wilbert McClure knows a thing or two about winning. The wiry 71-year-old from West Roxbury took home a gold medal in boxing at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
A voter contemplated his decision today at the main branch of the Boston Public Library.
So perhaps it was a good omen for Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty Jr. that the onetime light middleweight champion said he was in Flaherty's corner in the mayor's race. Striding out of Holy Name Parish Hall, McClure said he had had enough of Mayor Thomas M. Menino after 16 years.
“That’s the worst thing for democracy,” to have someone in office that long, said McClure, a 30-year resident of Boston who went on to earn a doctorate in psychology and teach at Northeastern University. “You don’t want one person in office for all those decades -- no matter what he does or she does. That’s just not smart.”
--Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
Roxbury: 'I just like him'
Outside the Roxbury Boys & Girls Club, nearly a dozen campaign volunteers pressed literature into voters' hands as they went inside to cast ballots. John Connolly for council, Tito Jackson for council, Menino for mayor. Council candidate Ayanna Pressley was outside, personally pleading with voters.
A boisterous Flaherty supporter called to everyone who passed, "We need a new mayor!"
Ursula Payne, a 46-year-old package handler for FedEx who was heading inside to vote, called back, "That's the truth!"
"He's served his purpose, he helped us," Payne said in an interview after she cast her ballot for challenger Michael F. Flaherty Jr. "Now it's time for some new blood."
But another voter, Sarah Cummings-Grant, shot back when faced with the Flaherty supporter's call for a new mayor. "You should be ashamed! We do not need a new mayor," said Cummings-Grant, 69.
She has met Mayor Thomas M. Menino several times over the years and remains a strong supporter. "He has done a wonderful job for Roxbury, first of all, and for the city of Boston," said Cummings-Grant, a Roxbury resident for 27 years who works for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and has donated to the Menino campaign.
Catherine Brown, another longtime Roxbury resident, said she also voted for the mayor.
"I don't know," said Brown, 77. "I just like him."
--Donovan Slack, Globe Staff
South End: Reluctance to change
Ben Venido Benson shrugged his shoulders and laughed when asked today why he voted again for four-term incumbent Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
"I don't want to change," the 86-year-old retiree said after a few more seconds. "Maybe somebody comes in. He does bad."
Benson, dressed in windbreaker and a baseball cap, was part of a small but steady stream of South End residents who voted at one of four precincts inside the Cathedral High School Gym. The South End, among the city's most diverse neighborhoods, had the words "vote here," posted in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
People walked to the polling place with dogs and baby strollers, popular accessories in this gentrified quarter of the city that mixes housing projects with high end restaurants. Based on a handful of interviews early this morning, it seemed like Menino territory.
"The city works," said Richard Shibley, a 50-year-old computer consultant. "If someone's doing a bad job, four years is too long. If someone's doing a good job, keep them in the job."
Like others, he paused when asked what the winning candidate should tackle first thing after the election, then settled on schools, even though his 21-year-old son is too old to benefit from an improved system.
"He's done a lot for the community. And that's the most important thing," said Richard Thames, a 50-year-old medical abstracter who praised Menino's work with minorities in Roxbury, Dorchester, and the South End. "You get some who say they're going to do a lot for the community, and they're in it for themselves."
Thames, smoking a cigarette while waiting to catch the Silver Line bus, said the long-time incumbent has proven otherwise. "With Menino, it shows."
--Noah Bierman, Globe Staff
South Boston: Running the gantlet of canvassers
A narrow 40-foot walkway leads into the Foley Apartments, a red brick building that houses a busy polling place in South Boston. Regular voters know the drill: That walkway, hemmed in by fences on both sides, becomes a gantlet of canvassers on Election Day.
Holding signs and passing out pamphlets this morning was a crowd that numbered 14 and included a mellow black lab named Zoe. The group spilled out of the narrow path and on onto the sidewalk out front, where three men paced back and forth with placards nailed to wooden poles. A half-dozen other signs lay idle against the fence, ready to be hoisted when reinforcements arrived.
The moment a voter stepped onto that narrow walkway, the canvassers converged and made a last second pitch. They pressed people to darken an oval next to their candidate, telling voters, “Re-elect Murphy" or “Flaherty for change,” or “Connolly for Council.”
Law requires canvassers to stand 150 feet from the entrance to a building that houses a polling place. But election officials are often flexible about the requirement in densely packed neighborhoods where the 150-foot buffer could push crowds in front of private residences or businesses. Ultimately it is discretion of the election warden at each polling place to determine whether voters need a little more breathing room.
The Foley Apartments, however, take up an entire block on H Street, so the buffer could be easily observed. But the only canvasser who came close to meeting the 150-foot requirement was Zoe the dog, who lay quietly on the sidewalk with her leash tied to the fence.
"Tomas Gonzalez for City Council, she's a big supporter," said Zoe's owner, Andy Wood, 30, a carpenter handing out cards for his candidate on the edge of the group of canvassers. "I'll be out here all day, expect when she needs to go to the bathroom. We go for a walk then."
--Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Dudley Square: 'Open to change' and sticking with 'one of the best mayors'
The trickle of voters who cast ballots at a Boys and Girls Club near Dudley Square this morning seemed split over their choice for mayor.
Some voters such as Claudette Desmond stuck with what she knew, giving her vote again to four-term incumbent Mayor Thomas M. Menino instead of the challenger, Michael F. Flaherty Jr.
"He's done so much for the city in sixteen years," said Desmond, 53, as she waited for a bus. "He's one of the best mayors we've ever had … Housing, parks and recreation, there's so much to say."
Anne Winston came to her decision to vote for Menino the same way. "I chose the one I know about," said the retiree in her 70s. "He's not been perfect, but he has the interest of all the people in Boston."
But for Klare Allen, 16 years was plenty of time for one mayor to occupy the corner office at City Hall. "It's not a career, it's a seat that should stay fresh," said Allen, a community organizer in Roxbury. "I'm open to change, and to the new ideas. They say opposites attract and complement each other, and that's what's happening with Flaherty and [Sam] Yoon."
Derrek King took his desire for change even further and stood outside the polling place for three hours today stumping for Flaherty and his running mate, Yoon. "It's time for a change, the Flaherty-Yoon ticket is stressing the change, and hopefully they move us in a different direction," said King, 43, who voted this morning in Jamaica Plain.
--Jack Nicas, Globe Correspondent
JP: 'I like him … but we need some new blood.'
Voting plodded along at a slow pace at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, where only 10 ballots has been cast in first half hour after the polls opened.
David Wilhelmi walked past signs for Menino and Flaherty and several City Council candidates affixed to a fence outside the school as he ventured inside. The 59-year-old financial official at Children's Hospital said he hungered for new leadership after Mayor Thomas M. Menino's 16-year run in office.
"The mayor has been in office for too long," Wilhelmi said. "I like him. He has helped us, but we need some new blood."
The same motivation drove Joel Parry, an engineer who said he went with challenger Michael F. Flaherty Jr.
"I've had enough of Menino," said Parry, 52. "I probably voted for him every time he's been up for election."
--David Abel, Globe Staff
South Boston: Wary of the unknown
On H Street near Day Boulevard in South Boston, the meaning of "change" cut two ways. For Martha Van Riddle, a 74-year-old library administrator who voted for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Boston's national reputation as a well-managed city swayed her to stick with the incumbent and avoid the unknown.
But to Meg Walsh, a retired 63-year-old who voted for Michael F. Flaherty Jr., Menino has simply been in office for much too long. "We need a change, and I pray to God for Flaherty," said Walsh, a lifelong South Boston resident like her chocie for mayor.
Walsh has never voted for Menino, she said. If Flaherty is elected, she added, his first order of business should be to help reinstate a strict system of neighborhood schools.
In mid-morning, campaign boosters gathered under brilliant, clear skies and chatted amiably as their neighbors arrived to vote at the Foley Apartments, a Boston Housing Authority facility for elderly and disabled residents. The signs for Menino and Flaherty were nearly equally divided, and talk about the spectacular weather vied with political chit-chat for top billing.
Jerry, who asked that his last name not be used, said he voted for Menino because "he's done a good job, and he deserves to stay in there." Besides, Jerry said, he's a 56-year-old custodian for the Boston Public Library who needs to keep his job. Menino seems to be the better choice to make that happen, he said.
--Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff
Beacon Hill: 'Change for the sake of change' not worthwhile
Henry Goodrow made what he considered the safe choice today when he blackened the oval next to the name of incumbent Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a polling place at Hill House.
"I feel like he's not going to make any big mistakes," said Goodrow, 47, an unemployed fund-raiser for nonprofits.
If Menino defeats challenger Michael F. Flaherty Jr. for a fifth term, the mayor's most significant task will be to jump start development projects, Goodrow said. As an example, Goodrow pointed to the gaping hole where Filene's once stood.
"I think it's critical that he gets the Downtown Crossing situation figured out," Goodrow said. "It's the heart of the city."
Peter Rait followed the same logic, choosing Menino because he was a known quantity. The 51-year-old has also been impressed by the mayor's handling of city's finances during the economic downturn.
"There has to be a motivating reason for a change," said Rait, a local hotel and restaurant owner. "Change for the sake of change is not worthwhile."
-- Jamie Vaznis, Globe Staff
JP: A focus on schools
In Jamaica Plain, a man held up a Flaherty sign, pointing to it and giving a thumbs up to voters walking into the Mary Curley School on Centre Street. Several of the voters who trickled out appeared to be in his camp.
One of them, Andree Lerat, a 62-year-old yoga trainer, said she voted for Flaherty.
"Menino had 16 years to do what he said he is going to do during the debates," she said. "He has been there too long."
For Lerat, like many voters interviewed outside the school, education was the most important issue for the elected mayor to work on.
"I would like the schools to be doing better and for the teachers union to be weakened," she said. "And I would love a crosswalk."
Lindsay Mack, a 30-year-old attorney who came to the polls with her husband, Ben, and their one-and-a half-year-old son, also voted for Flaherty.
"I think 16 years is a long time to be mayor," she said. "It's more of a philosophical reason, not anything against Menino."
As Mack looked at her son waddling in the school parking lot, she said she wants whoever is elected to focus on schools.
"The school he would go to is currently failing," she said. "I would like for it to not be failing by the time he's old enough to go. We can't afford private school. It's outrageous."
Christina Viola Sirvastova, a 33-year-old policy analyst, also said she voted for Flaherty, though her reasons for going against the incumbent were more unusual than other voters.
"I want Menino to win," she said. "I just want him to get a little competition."
-- Maria Cramer, Globe Staff
Boston Public Library: Late afternoon decisions
By late afternoon, the few volunteers handing out Flaherty flyers and the abandoned Menino signs stuck in the chain link fences were the only hints of Election Day near the entrance to the Boston Public Library.
Retiree Rick Mulhaupt, 58, was among the voters trickling out of the library. Mulhaupt said Menino's successful campaign contributed to his vote.
“Menino did a good job of not overly grandstanding,” he said. “I’ve seen him do some good things, and I want to keep seeing him do good things.”
Peter Meade, 63, president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and his wife, Rosanne, also 63, both said they voted for Menino because they were impressed with record as mayor.
“It’s clear he loves this city and loves being the mayor,” Rosanne Meade said, citing his efforts in education.
Peter Meade said Menino has not been given the credit he deserves in terms of the finances of the city.
“We grew up in this city, but he’s done so much in terms of making this city welcoming to outsiders and drawing people and business here,” he said.
Neil, 53, who declined to give his last name because he works for the city, said he voted for Flaherty because as a city worker he has “seen what Menino and company does.” Neil said he believes Flaherty will win over the people who are unhappy with Menino's leadership.
"It's just too many terms for one guy,” he said.
-- Abbie E Ruzicka, Globe Correspondent
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more