Former state Sen. Steven Tolman, who left the Senate to head up the Massachusetts AFL-CIO last month, offered his endorsement in Belmont this morning to retired Watertown firefighter Robert McCarthy, who is running to fill Tolman's empty Senate seat.
"I think Bob McCarthy relates to everyday citizens in the district," Tolman said at the event, which took place at the Belmont Senior Center. "He understands how to stretch a dollar, and knows about senior problems with Social Security and Medicare. He's the perfect example of the working class in our district. He spent his entire life standing up for the middle class, and standing up for their benefits."
McCarthy, a former AFL-CIO vice president, said he appreciated Tolman's support.
"He believes I'm the person to succeed him on Beacon Hill," McCarthy said. "I'm proud and honored to receive his endorsement and continue his legacy."
McCarthy, who served as a Watertown firefighter for 34 years, retired in 2001 and went on to become the vice president of the AFL-CIO for 10 years. He also served as president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts for 23 years until he stepped down in January 2011. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1968.
Tolman said he and McCarthy both attended the same high school in Watertown a few years apart, and that they both went through the Harvard Trade Union Program together in 1980.
"He was unanimously endorsed by the AFL-CIO's executive board of 61 members," Tolman said. "He is not a carbon copy. He will stand up for his district."
As part of his campaign, McCarthy has pledged to serve no more than two terms if elected, and to donate half of his senatorial salary to programs for seniors and children.
"I want to get the message out there that we're trying to work with and help those people wherever and whenever we can," McCarthy said. "This is not a career for me, this is not a money issue for me, this is not to do my resume up. I am here to give people a voice who need a voice and don’t have a voice."
Tim Schofield, a Brighton resident and attorney also running on the Senate ticket, today received an endorsement from Ayanna Pressley, the top vote-getter in the recent elections for Boston City Council.
Schofield also has received endorsements from state Reps. Michael Moran and Kevin Honan, both Brighton Democrats, as well as Boston City Councilors John Connolly, Michael Ross, Matt O'Malley, and Mark Ciommo.
"I have been fortunate to get support from a lot of people who understand that when I stand up and talk about what I’m fighting for, it’s what they’re fighting for, too," Schofield said.
The political newcomer said he was not shocked that Tolman decided to support McCarthy in the Senate race.
"I’m not particularly surprised that the head of AFL-CIO endorsed the former head of the firefighters’ union," Schofield said.
The two State House representatives running for the same Senate seat representing Watertown, Belmont and parts of Cambridge, Allston-Brighton, the Fenway and the Back Bay, said they also were not concerned over Tolman's endorsement.
State Rep. Will Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat, said he expected Tolman to endorse McCarthy.
"Steve Tolman is head of the state’s leading labor org, and McCarthy is a labor leader. It had been in place for quite some time already, and they announced it today," Brownsberger said. "I think people are going to continue to look at the candidates and what they’ve done and what they’re going to do."
Brownsberger said he has a laundry list of endorsers himself, including the Sierra Club, Belmont elected officials, the Ward 11 Democratic Committee in Cambridge, and an ad hoc neighborhood group in Fenway.
"I have more grassroots endorsements, such as local elected officials and neighborhood activists," Brownsberger said.
State Rep. Jonathan Hecht, a Watertown Democrat, said while he respected Tolman and enjoyed working with him at the State House, he predicted Tolman would endorse McCarthy because of their aligned labor interests.
"His endorsement today is part of his new job as president of state AFL-CIO and reflects the union interests he now represents," Hecht said. "I also respect the labor movement and everything it has done for working people in this country, but the state Senator job is to represent all the people of the district, not just the labor unions."
Hecht said he was not worried about the high-profile endorsement.
"We're getting a very good response everywhere we’re campaigning," Hecht said. "I have a record that people can look at in terms of what I have done to try and improve people’s lives, and I'm going to run on that record and I believe we’ll be successful."
Hecht's own endorsements include all Watertown Town Councilors, Cambridge Vice Mayor Henrietta Davis, Watertown state Rep. John Lawn, the Ward 9 Democratic Committee in Cambridge, the Sierra Club, and School Committee members in Cambridge and Watertown.
In Belmont, a small group of McCarthy proponents attended this morning's event to garner support for the retired veteran.
Watertown resident and former Belmont firefighter Joe McDonald, 62, said he agreed with many of McCarthy's views on pensions and labor laws.
"I'm a working man, and I'm a retired person, so I have a lot in common," McDonald said. "He's a nice guy and a hard worker."
Quincy resident and Belmont firefighter Dan Scannell, 39, said while he could not vote in the special Senate election because he does not live in the district, he appeared this morning to support McCarthy's views on keeping pensions fair, as his widowed mother lives off of his firefighter father's pension.
Scannell said he thought Tolman recommending citizens to elect McCarthy would prove beneficial.
"Bob McCarthy has always been a champion for our causes. This is a great endorsement - it's great to have someone like Tolman in your corner," Scannell said. "It certainly helps get a lot of union people giving their thumbs up, but it also sends a message to hardworking blue collar people trying to get by."
The special Senate election primary will be held Dec. 13. The general election will take place Jan. 10.