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East Boston voters, though not large in number, motivated by strong personal beliefs

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  April 30, 2013 06:41 PM

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Five precincts of Ward 1 vote at East Boston High School, but by 2 p.m. Tuesday only 283 voters had cast their ballots in the special election to fill the US Senate seat formerly held by Secretary of State John F. Kerry.

“It’s a low turnout on primary day,” one poll worker said. “We’ll have more for the general.”

Outside, two supporters of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley’s mayoral campaign had just arrived, but they said they had collected 20 signatures in about 15 minutes, despite the low turnout.

“People have been very friendly, more than willing to sign the nomination papers,” said Chuck Famolare, 55, an East Boston native who now lives in neighboring Winthrop. “My feeling is that Dan Conley has good name recognition here in East Boston.”

Voters interviewed outside the polls said they had made their decisions based largely on a single issue of personal importance.

Born in El Salvador but an East Boston resident for nearly 15 years, Sandra Nijjar said she cast her vote for US Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat, based mostly on his support for federal immigration reform.

“Right now, that’s the main issue, just because we’re so close to having it pass,” said Nijjar, 40, who is active in local pro- immigrant community organizations such as ¿Oiste?, Centro Presente, and Neighbors United for a Better East Boston.

Nijjar said she has become a citizen, and her children were born in the US, but she knows others whose lives are limited by their immigration status.

“We have friends and relatives who work very hard, they contribute to this economy, but they have to live in the shadows,” she said.

For one longtime East Boston resident, 78-year-old Elena LaMonica, the choice came down to the Democrats’ differing stances on abortion.

“I’m a Catholic. I don’t believe you have the right to kill your child,” said LaMonica, who voted for US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who has long opposed abortion rights. “You play, you pay.”

Another longtime resident, 66-year-old Cassy Martorana, said she grew up in the same house she lives in today. Martorana was also focused on the abortion issue, but she voted for Markey.

“I had a couple of girlfriends years ago — when abortion was illegal — [the procedure] butchered them. They could never have kids,” Martorana said.

Though she strongly supports Markey, her eyes are already on the upcoming mayoral race, where this longtime supporter of Mayor Thomas M. Menino hopes to help elect City Councilor Rob Consalvo as Boston’s second Italian-American mayor.

“When the mayor won,” she said of Menino, “my dad was so thrilled it was the first Italian mayor ever.”

Besides a pride in the heritage they share, Martorana said she was motivated by a piece of advice from Menino.

“The mayor said this: ‘Pick somebody that you think loves this city as much as I do.’ And Rob Consalvo does,” Martorana said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow East Boston on Twitter: @YourEastBoston.

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