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Campaigns in full swing at Dorchester Day parade

Yawu Miller | 6/7/2017, 11:36 a.m.
Candidates’ nomination papers are in and the Dorchester Day parade represents the first major event where campaigns can show off ...
Mayor Martin Walsh cuts the ribbon on the Dorchester Day parade as elected officials look on. Mayor’s Office photo by Dan Harney

For at-large City Councilor Anissa Essaibi George, Dorchester Day has been a part of her life since she first watched the parade from her family home at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Taft Street.

District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson leads volunteers for his mayoral campaign through the Fields Corner section of Dorchester.

Banner photo

District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson leads volunteers for his mayoral campaign through the Fields Corner section of Dorchester.

Members of a steel band play on a float in the parade.

Banner photo

Members of a steel band play on a float in the parade.

At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley enjoys a moment with Alaysha Balkishun (2) during the Dorchester Day parade.

Banner photo

At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley enjoys a moment with Alaysha Balkishun (2) during the Dorchester Day parade.

Mayor Martin Walsh greets supporter Myrtle Huggins.

Banner photo

Mayor Martin Walsh greets supporter Myrtle Huggins.

Later, she marched in the parade as the member of a color guard squad, spent 20 years on the parade committee, served as a commentator for Boston Neighborhood News and ran the Little Miss Dot contest.

Now, as an elected official, Essaibi-George marches in parades in every neighborhood — First Night, St. Patrick’s Day, Pride, Bunker Hill, the Caribbean Carnival and the Roslindale parade — but Dorchester’s event is still paramount.

“Even though I represent the whole city, marching in my neighborhood’s parade is really the best thing,” she said, surrounded by a team of volunteers.

Neighborhood sentiments aside, the parade serves another important function for any candidate who represents the whole city: It’s the unofficial kickoff of the political season.

“Papers are in,” Essaibi-George said. “Everyone’s declared.”

Of the four candidates declared for mayor, two had the resources to show up with brigades of T-shirt-wearing supporters, signage and swag: Dorchester resident Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Tito Jackson. In the at-large council race, it was incumbents Essaibi-George, Dorchester resident Ayanna Pressley, Michael Flaherty and Council President Michelle Wu.

As mayor of the city, Walsh had the honor of marching in the lead of the parade, along with Police Commissioner Bill Evans and other officials from his administration. As an incumbent facing a challenge from Councilor Tito Jackson, Walsh was in full campaign mode: jogging in a zig-zag pattern to greet spectators along the three-mile-long route, which stretches from Richmond Street in Lower Mills (a block from his home) to Columbia Road.

“There’s going to be a Dot Day party in this house!” he remarked to a group of a dozen spectators in a Lower Mills home with Irish and U.S. flags on display, its front doors open and a multicultural assortment of revelers on the front lawn.

Further back in the parade, about 60 supporters marched behind a banner and wore campaign shirts in Walsh’s signature red. Among the throng were many city workers. Campaign spokeswoman Gabrielle Farrell characterized the composition of the Walsh crew as a microcosm of the city’s largest and most populous neighborhood:

“This is a cross-section of Dorchester,” she said. “Residents who represent all walks of life. Supporters of Mayor Walsh.”

Further back, Dorchester City Councilor Frank Baker, running unopposed, marched, backed by a modest crew of volunteers and a black Jeep. At-large Councilor Michael Flaherty marched with a handful of volunteers and a black SUV. After the Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps from Nashua, New Hampshire came Essaibi-George’s volunteers, donning T-shirts in her campaign’s signature deep pink color.

“It’s a strong color,” Essaibi-George said. “It’s not a traditional campaign color, but it’s our tradition. And how great does it look?!”

Directly behind marched Dorchester Councilor Andrea Campbell, running unopposed and backed by a dozen volunteers.

Despite her lack of opposition, Campbell has been raising money and, with $87,416 in her account as of May 30, says she plans to keep her voters engaged.

“We’re running a full campaign,” she said. “We’re going to focus on those who are not super-voters to encourage their engagement.”

Behind Campbell, Pressley marched with a crew of volunteers, greeting constituents from her Dorchester home base. In the St. Mark’s Parish area, she paused for photos with the owners of a new restaurant.

“We helped them get their liquor license,” she said.

Following Pressley, Michelle Wu waved at spectators from the back of an open-top Jeep.

Next came a sequence of floats including the Metro Boston Steel Band, Dorchester House, Codman Square Health Center, the Dorchester Food Coop, the Roberto Clemente Dancers, the Ashmont Nursery School.

Near, but not at the end, came mayoral challenger Tito Jackson.

“We’re at the front of the back of the bus,” he joked.

What he lacked in positioning, he made up for with energy, shaking hands and posing for photos with parade participants. Occasionally, onlookers chanted, “Tito, Tito, Tito!”, highlighting the advantage of having a musical name.