Mayoral hopeful John R. Connolly and his supporters pushed back Monday against the notion that his opponent, Martin J. Walsh, is locking up support in Boston’s communities of color or that Walsh’s recent high-profile endorsements will necessarily translate to votes in November.
At a rally in Roxbury, a diverse group of more than 100 people, including African-American members of the clergy, a Somali-American mother of four Boston public school students, and community leaders spoke in favor of Connolly’s candidacy. Their overarching message: While Walsh may have the backing of many of Boston’s elected officials of color, many others are standing behind Connolly.
“John may not be at the top of the list when it comes to elected officials high-fiving him and promoting him, but he’s at the top of the list when it comes to grass-roots people,” said the Rev. William E. Dickerson II, pastor of Greater Love Tabernacle and one of the speakers.
Walsh, a longtime state representative, has racked up a hefty roster of endorsements in the last month, including many of the elected officials of color who represent Boston.
Last week, he gained the backing of state Senators Sonia Chang-Diaz and Linda Dorcena Forry, as well as Councilor Tito Jackson and state Representatives Carlos Henriquez, Gloria Fox, and Russell Holmes.
Walsh also has the nod from three former mayoral contenders, whom Connolly had been working to woo: Felix G. Arroyo, John Barros, and Charlotte Golar Richie, the third-place finisher in the September preliminary election.
At Monday’s rally, Connolly had a little fun citing Walsh’s many endorsements. “I may not have the endorsement of a lot of elected officials. In fact, I heard Wednesday Barack Obama is going to endorse Marty Walsh,” he joked, to laughter from the crowd.
How much difference endorsements will make on Election Day, Nov. 5, is a matter of debate. Endorsements only sometimes carry with them networks of voters who will go to the polls.
At the same time, a steady stream of public support can give voters a powerful perception of which way the political winds are blowing. That, in turn, can influence how they cast their ballots.
Connolly seemed intent Monday on changing the narrative that Walsh has gained momentum among voters of color, voters who could play a decisive role in determining Thomas M. Menino’s successor.
In an interview after his event, Connolly acknowledged that endorsements from elected officials do matter and that he would prefer to have them. But, he insisted, they will not determine the city’s next mayor.
“At the end of this, voters are going to look at the two candidates in our own words, our own voice, study us, and make a decision,” he said.
“What I love are the endorsements of the real people of this city, who are out there every day trying to make a future,” he said. “When you look today and you see the ministers, the street workers, the families, from all these backgrounds, that talks to the true strength of my campaign.”
Among the endorsements Connolly wrapped up Monday: Robert Lewis Jr., a veteran of both the Boston Foundation and the Menino administration, and Bishop John M. Borders III of Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan.
They lauded his vision and his leadership and said he will listen to Boston’s diverse communities if he becomes mayor.
“What we know is John’s not just going to ask us to come to the table; he’s going to ask us to lead with him,” Lewis said.
A good mayor, Borders said, has “to fight for the equality of every race, every ethnic group, every class, and every neighborhood.” Connolly, he said, would do just that.
Walsh, for his part, held another endorsement event Monday morning in Hyde Park, where he got the backing of US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who represents much of Boston.
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, whose congressional district includes the rest of Boston, had previously backed Walsh.
Walsh said his endorsements from a diverse array of elected officials convey a great deal to Bostonians.
“I think it sends a message to the residents of the city of Boston that ‘we have to take a look at Marty Walsh’ because the large majority of the elected officials that represent the city of Boston are supporting my candidacy,” he said.