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Warren’s win fueled by high black voter turnout

Yawu Miller | 11/14/2012, 7:44 a.m.

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Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson (R) and state Democratic Party Chairman John E. Walsh participated in a recent community forum at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen to discuss the presidential election and state politics. (Don West photo)


Steve Tompkins, a senior political adviser to U.S. Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, talks about grassroots campaigning during a recent community forum at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen. (Don West photo)

Last spring, the Massachusetts Democratic Party was on the ropes.

The state’s most popular and charismatic politician was Republican Senator Scott Brown, Republican candidates were gearing up to expand their gains in the state’s House and Senate and Democrats were still smarting from Attorney General Martha Coakley’s defeat in the special election she lost to Brown in 2010.

As election results rolled in on television screens across the Bay State last Tuesday evening showing Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren with an eight-point lead over Brown, the state’s GOP insurgency fizzled along with the hopes of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In the end, the Elizabeth Warren campaign prevailed with the help of what many say was the most extensive and sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort in history.

In Boston’s black and Latino communities, where support for Democratic candidates is far higher than the state average, the get-out-the-vote effort was in full swing Tuesday, with the Warren campaign, unions and community-based organizations mounting an impressive effort to push turnout.

“There was a real, conscious effort to put resources in communities of color,” said Steve Tompkins, who worked as a senior policy advisor on the Warren campaign.

Tompkins and others from the campaign crisscrossed the state in the weeks leading up to the election, formulating plans to turn out voters. On Election Day in Roxbury, Democratic activists saturated Boston’s black, Latino and Asian communities, knocking on doors, making phone calls and dropping literature to remind people to vote.

At Warren’s Grove Hall office, dozens of volunteers manned phones, distributed campaign literature and gave orders to campaign volunteers who hit the pavement in Roxbury.

Next door at the William E. Reed Auditorium, union officials from the Service Employees International Union coordinated get-out-the-vote efforts for union activists, dispatching crews of service workers, building tradesmen and members of community-based organizations to knock on doors throughout Boston.

Darrin Howell, an organizer with Mass Uniting — a union-funded grassroots action organization — said more than 1,000 volunteers had come by the auditorium to pick up assignments on Election Day. And that was after many had engaged in months of canvassing.

On Tuesday afternoon, the auditorium was buzzing with activity as crews of building trades workers, service workers and community activists circulated through, picking up assignment folders packed with addresses and maps.

“This is one of the strongest coordinated campaigns I’ve seen in a long time,” said SEIU 1199 Political Director Tim Foley, who manned a table in the auditorium.