Candidates, Voters Navigate One Strange Election Season as Sept. 1 Primary Approaches

Thousands of mail-in votes have been requested and hundreds have been cast in-person already for the Sept. 1 Primary Election as mail-in and in-person voting options have brought excitement to campaigns for U.S. Senate and State Representative in Charlestown.

With COVID-19 changing everything, and radically shifting how candidates campaign, one of the keys to the election this year is focusing on mail-in ballots and creating some excitement for in-person voting and Election Day in-person voting as well.

The past seven days have been a very exciting – and unusual – time to campaign and vote in Charlestown for the Sept. 1 State Primary Election. Between mail-in voting, socially-distanced rallies and statewide bus tours, Charlestown has seen excitement pick up. Shown here are U.S. Sen. Ed Markey in with State Sen. Sal DiDomenico on the ‘Leads and Delivers’ Tour;
Congressman (and U.S. Senate candidate) Joe Kennedy III at the Charlestown Bus Garage during the overnight shift as part of his 24-hour statewide campaign tour last week;
State Rep. candidate Damali Vidot at early voting in Charlestown with her husband, Tony Rosa.
State Rep. Dan Ryan at early voting on Tuesday with supporters
Roger Cheesbrough, Patty Kelly and Maureen Feeney;

No one has ever had to do it before, but candidates are adapting and changing weekly. This week marked a major uptick in the energy of the two centerpiece campaigns – one featuring U.S. Sen. Ed Markey vs. Congressman Joe Kennedy III for U.S. Senator; and the other featuring State Rep. Dan Ryan vs. Chelsea Councillor Damali Vidot for state representative. In the last seven days, all four have held or attended in-person events in and around Charlestown and Chelsea.

The City of Boston reported on Tuesday there had been 3,259 mail-in and absentee ballots requested for Ward 2, which is Charlestown. That is a number that has grown by about 1,000 since last week. That was combined with a lively early, in-person voting day at the Harvard Kent School on Tuesday. There lines were out the door for almost all of the afternoon and evening as in-person voting was much more brisk that observers, and candidates, expected.

For the high-profile state representative race it spans both sides of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, so Chelsea figures prominently as well.

Chelsea City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White said as of Tuesday, her office had a total of 2,920 Early Voting requests, of those, there were 155 people who voted Early, in-person at Chelsea City Hall. Like Boston City Hall, early voting in Chelsea City Hall continues through Friday.

Neither Boston nor Chelsea had a tally of how many mail-in ballots had been returned to their Election offices.

Both candidates appeared at early voting outside the Harvard Kent on Tuesday with energy and having their campaigns in full swing.

Meanwhile, another main driver of this Primary Election is the U.S. Senate race between Kennedy and Markey – a race many say is a dead heat right now.

Last Thursday, Kennedy hit Charlestown in the overnight, around 3 a.m., while he was on his 24-hour, 20-stop campaign tour of the entire state. He appeared at the Charlestown Bus Garage and talked to workers repairing buses on the graveyard shift. However, he’s been no stranger to Charlestown, appearing numerous times with the Teamsters Local 25 and other groups. He said local communities, local support and local leaders are a cornerstone to his campaign.

“There’s a Washington that’s disconnected,” he said afterward. “I believe a U.S. Senator can and should do something for the people. You can’t help the people by legislating from afar even with the best intentions. You have to have a ground game. You have to be with the people on the ground. You have to understand what people are facing in your communities to fight for your communities. From day one, our campaign and team has focused on earning the support of local officials particularly in communities that often get ignored.”

On last week’s 24-hour campaign tour, Kennedy said they left Boston at 3 a.m. and returned the next day at 6:45 a.m. after putting more than 600 miles on their vehicle. He said it was important to meet people where they are at, even it it’s the graveyard shift at the T Garage or if it’s fishermen in Gloucester heading out long before the sun rises.

“I thought it was important to do that part of the tour overnight because you see people you woldn’t see and go places you wouldn’t go to,” he said. “You’re talking with workers at the Charlestown buses facility as they fix the buses and literally work the graveyard shift. You learn what works in their job and what works in their families and what doesn’t, as well you hear the challenges the T has. You see how things in their lives come together and how they don’t. It’s a different dynamic when you’re with people in Charlestown who work all night to make our society work all day.”

Hitting the trail in his own bus this week, Markey rolled into surrounding cities for campaign stops on the ‘Leads & Delivers’ tour. Markey has largely not visited Charlestown during the campaign, but has hit many other Boston neighborhoods and frequently visited East Boston, Chelsea and Everett.

Markey has major support from elected officials in Charlestown like Councilor Lydia Edwards and State Sen. Sal DiDomenico.

All called on voters to re-elect Markey, as he has always delivered and takes his job personally when it comes to being able to help. It was also stressed that he had a common experience with the voters – having worked his way through college in a working-class Malden family.

“You had to work, you had to study, and you had to try hard to maximize your God-given abilities,” he said. “When I worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift at Purity Supreme in Somerville, I had to do it. You didn’t have a choice.”

Early voting continues this week at Boston City Hall, with voting Aug. 27 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The polls will open as usual on Sept. 1 for the State Primary Election as well.

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