While the candidates make their final push ahead of Tuesday, launching canvass squads and other efforts to encourage supporters to head to the polls, more than 21,000 people have already voted, according to city authorities. As of Friday, the city had received more than 16,000 mail-in ballots while more than 5,000 voters cast ballots in person at early voting sites.
However, what that means for Tuesday’s turnout is unclear.
Steve Koczela, the president of The MassINC Polling Group, pointed to the lack of historic precedent for no-excuse mail-in voting or early in-person voting, both byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic. That makes it hard to predict what the 21,000-plus votes already cast means for Tuesday.
The top two mayoral finishers Tuesday will advance to the Nov. 3 general election. Recent polls show Wu with a commanding lead. The other three women — Campbell, Essaibi George, and Janey — are in tight competition for the second spot in the general. Barros, as he has throughout the campaign, continues to lag far behind.
If Tuesday brings a traditional municipal turnout — an electorate typically dominated by white and older voters — that would benefit Essaibi George, who is seen as a moderate option in a field that features multiple progressives, Koczela said. A high turnout with a diverse electorate would benefit Janey, said Koczela, while polling evidence suggests that Campbell’s ballot box success is much less tethered to turnout levels.
Historically, voter interest in municipal preliminaries in Boston has been fairly dismal. In 2013, the first open race in 20 years, only 113,319 people voted in a city that had more than 300,000 registered voters at the time. In 2017, when Walsh ran for re-election, only 56,400 people voted in the preliminary. There are now more than 400,000 registered voters, according to city election data.
Of course, this preliminary is more momentous than usual; regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, it will lead to the election in November of the first Boston mayor of color, who most likely will be its first woman in the job, too.
Mark Horan, a political consultant who lives in Jamaica Plain and is not working for any candidate, thought the historic nature of the field has drawn the interest of the city’s progressives, who have been driven to the polls in recent years by an anti-Trump sentiment.
“People are clearly plugged into it,” he said.
On Sunday, the campaign trail was abuzz with activity.
In South Boston, Essaibi George attended an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the South Boston Vietnam Memorial at Medal of Honor Park off East Broadway. The former public school teacher from Dorchester appeared relaxed after the late-morning event, shaking hands and thanking veterans for their service.
“We’re excited about these next two days. I’m feeling the momentum, I’m feeling strong,” she said.
Essaibi George, who also made stops in Roslindale, East Boston, and Fort Point, said she was hoping for a high turnout. Asked what specific constituencies she needed to show up for her to have Election Day success, she was circumspect: “For me, it’s all the people of Boston. It’s so important that every neighborhood show up.”
She added, “This is certainly a race about supervoters, but it’s also about voters who haven’t necessarily shown up. Their voices matter. ”
Scott MacPherson, a 58-year-old marketing executive who lives in Southie and also attended the Vietnam Memorial event, said he was voting for Essaibi George. He liked that she had attended Boston Public Schools, that her four sons are doing the same, and her 13 years of experience as a public school teacher. He also thought Essaibi George had separated herself on the public safety front from the other candidates.
“She’s the only candidate that backs the police,” he said.
City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who polls suggest is gaining momentum and is fighting for second place with Janey and Essaibi George, campaigned across every neighborhood in the city over Saturday and Sunday. Her strategy for the final weekend was to meet voters where they are — and she played it cool strolling through cafés and neighborhoods in her campaign T-shirt with just her campaign manager and photographer in tow Sunday.
Asked about her confidence in securing the No. 2 spot, Campbell sounded self-assured. “Our job is just to get out of the preliminary, which I’m confident we will if we keep doing what we’re doing.”
At the Beacon Hill Civic Fall HillFest, Campbell came across some tough customers, including a trio of women who wouldn’t say who they’re supporting in the race.
“We are all still looking at everybody,” said Eve Waterfall of Beacon Hill.
But on Campbell’s route up and over brick sidewalks she was buffeted by random passersby, including Mary McFarlane of Beacon Hill, who called out from the passenger side of a passing car to wish Campbell luck. McFarlane said she’s voting for Campbell because of her leadership and her background.
At Saint Peter’s Church in Dorchester, Barros walked up to the altar at the end of a Portuguese-language service Sunday afternoon. From the pulpit, the Rev. John Currie introduced him and three Cape Verdean candidates for city council, and said a blessing for these candidates and for the people who will be elected to serve the city.
Barros stood, head bowed and hands clasped, to accept the blessing. It was his second Mass of the day; he had already attended a service at St. Patrick’s in Roxbury. Later, he planned to make other stops in the Seaport, Dorchester, and Fort Point.
After the Mass, Barros was on the front steps facing Bowdoin Street, greeting parishioners with handshakes and hugs, encouraging them to vote in Tuesday’s election.
Barros, who has struggled to gain traction, said he was in good spirits. The son of Cape Verdean immigrants, Barros talked about the importance of getting Boston’s large Cape Verdean community, and immigrant communities in general, to vote.
”I know the polls don’t see these people,” he said as people trickled out of the church. “The poll that matters is the poll on Sept. 14.”
As the late-afternoon sun blazed down on Blue Hill Avenue in Grove Hall, more than 100 people gathered, hoisting signs or wearing purple and orange campaign T-shirts.
Addressing the crowd of enthusiastic supporters, Janey spoke of her family history in Boston and her own upbringing in public housing and sometimes in shelters, having a daughter at 16, and becoming involved in advocacy. “Like I told my pastor this morning . . . I’m a child of God. And I have faith in the people of Boston. I have faith in our city. I have faith because this is the city that raised me.”
Recent polls suggest Janey’s support has stalled, but her supporters on Sunday were not having it. “The newspapers will not call this election. The pollsters and pundits will not call this election,” Tito Jackson, the former city councilor and 2017 mayoral candidate, said. He led chants filled with confidence that the first Black woman to serve as mayor would be elected in her own right.
Earlier in the day, Wu, the presumptive front-runner, rallied eight supporters and campaign aides in Roxbury as they prepared to canvass the neighborhood. Later, Senator Elizabeth Warren — a Wu supporter, for whom Wu once worked — joined the candidate at the Green Street T stop near the Southwest Corridor in Jamaica Plain for another rally.
“Roxbury always has low turnout. That’s something that really matters to me so seeing more volunteers come through has been special,” said Anshi Moreno, 24, an aide to Wu’s campaign, who grew up in Academy Homes nearby. She said she was sold on Wu since high school, when Wu responded to her high school group’s push for an immigrant rights bill.
“She convinced me because privately and publicly she was the same person,” said Moreno.
“The energy on the ground is unbelievable,” Wu said. “People in every neighborhood are ready to see change, to be involved. . . . This is going to be a very close race. So our focus is continuing momentum, trying to be everywhere, and making sure people know what’s at stake in this election.”
Milton J. Valencia and Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Danny McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.