Despite a low turnout in District 7 today, Tito Jackson showed why he is the man to beat in the race to replace Chuck Turner on the City Council.
Though bitter wind chills and a general lack of awareness kept most voters away from the polls, Jackson distanced himself from the field of six candidates in the preliminary race to represent the South End, Roxbury, Lower Roxbury, and parts of Dorchester and the Fenway.
Jackson, 35, a Grove Hall native, who announced his candidacy in December, dominated the race. With all 31 precincts reporting, Jackson came in first with 1,943 votes, or 67.3 percent.
He will face off March 15 against the second-place candidate, Cornell Mills, who edged out Danielle Renee Williams by 13 votes, 271 to 258.
Jackson emerged as the front-runner well before today's preliminary. He won major labor endorsements and raised $40,000 compared to his nearest rival’s $3,500 in campaign funds. Turner, who still carries some weight, also endorsed him immediately after his October conviction on federal corruption charges.
Turner was sentenced last month to three years behind bars for accepting a $1,000 bribe. He could not be reached for comment on the race tonight.
Jackson most recently was political director for Governor Deval Patrick’s reelection campaign and is running on a platform of jobs, education, safety, and affordable housing. Jackson ran unsuccessfully in 2009, missing an at-large seat by 11,676 votes.
Mills, 36, is the son of former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who was ensnared in the same federal corruption probe as Turner. The real estate firm owner also worked as a civilian homicide investigator for the Suffolk district attorney’s office. However, the Globe reported in 2005 that Mills was hired despite having previously been arrested four times on charges that included assaulting a police officer and possession of marijuana.
The grassroots efforts of Jackson’s supporters showed today. Outside the Higginson/Lewis K-8 School in Roxbury — a typically busy polling location — Jackson supporters stood tall in the cold.
LaDarrell Hagans, of Roxbury, stood beside fellow Jackson supporter, Marie Marshall, a lifelong Fields Corner resident. Marshall’s mittens and Hagans’ sleeve-tucked bare hands clung to a large campaign sign as the duo greeted voters and waved to cars passing by.
They both said early today that they were encouraged by the number of voters who expressed support for their candidate as they entered and exited the school gymnasium.
‘‘It helps, especially to be out here on a cold day like this, when people wave, or give you a thumbs up or honk as they drive by,’’ Marshall said.
In the South End, Bill Shaevel, a lawyer from Jamaica Plain, stood by the door of the Frederick Douglass Apartments on Tremont Street, dressed in a long wool trench coat, passing out fliers for Jackson.
‘‘In a low turnout race like this, you have to identify your voters and get them out,’’ Shaevel said, adding that City Councilor Matt O’Malley had employed a similar strategy during his bid for the 6th District.
But many did not journey to the polls for various reasons. Of the 40,985 voters in District 7, only 2,886, or 7 percent, cast ballots.
Grace Jarmman, resident of the Grove Hall neighborhood of Dorchester, said she voted in the last gubernatorial race and knew there was an election today, but she did not know it was to replace Turner.
‘‘I’ve been seeing Tito Jackson’s name all over the place,’’ Jarmman said. ‘‘I know the major times you’re supposed to vote. I always vote. But these little elections that are off the normal calendar always throw me off. They don’t seem as important. Not that they aren’t.’’
At the Municipal Building on 500 Columbia Road in Dorchester, candidates and their supporters seemed to outnumber actual voters mid-morning, their signs clustered at the entrance to the Uphams Corner polling station.
Lee Kindell, a Harbor Point resident working for the Mills campaign, had been passing out fliers in below-freezing temperatures since the poll opened at 7 a.m.
‘‘My face is kind of numb,’’ he said later, as temperatures had just begun to nudge 20 degrees.
Kindell said he was braving the cold to support Mills, because he was ‘‘the most outstanding and straightforward candidate.’’
Tonight, Jackson gathered with supporters at Slades Bar & Grill on Tremont Street, where a jazz band played as the results came in.
Williams, who worked for Turner as well as for former Councilor at large Felix D. Arroyo and state Representative Gloria Fox, came in third in the preliminary.
Natalie Carithers, 56, a radio personality, and perennial candidates Althea Garrison and Roy Owens, rounded out the field in the district race.
John R. Ellement and Yoon S. Byun of the Globe staff and Globe Correspondents Matt Rocheleau and Cara Bayles contributed to this report.
John M. Guilfoil can be reached at email@example.com.