This is the first part in a series of profiles about the candidates facing off in the Nov. 5 election.
After serving 16 years as a state representative for Massachusetts for Dorchester, Democrat Martin Walsh is competing against Councilor At-Large John Connolly to be the next mayor of Boston, with an emphasis on improving schools, spurring economic development, creating business and decreasing crime throughout the city.
“I enjoy helping people, and my opportunity in the legislature along with my life experiences has kind of given me the understanding that I could work well as the mayor of Boston and do a lot of good things for the people,” he said in an interview.
Kate Norton, spokeswoman for the Walsh campaign, said she has been a Walsh supporter from the beginning because of his commitment to the residents of Boston.
“Marty always says he’s running for mayor because he wants to help people, because he likes to help people,” she said. “I’ve seen this firsthand, and I know that’s who Marty is. If you had to come up with one value to describe Marty, that would be it — his love, his willingness and his wanting to help people all the time. As mayor, he’ll be able to help that many more individuals and families. That’s why I chose to support him.”
In this race, Walsh said he is most concerned with reforming the Boston Public School education and stimulating economic development in Boston, two issues that have been at the forefront of his campaign since he announced he was running onMay 4.
“One of the most particular concerns for me is making sure we create economic developments in all neighborhoods in the city of Boston so people have the chance for employment … and I want to continue to reform public education here in Boston and make sure that we build good schools out of all of our schools, not just a few,” he said.
Walsh said education ties into another goal of his: combatting gun violence.
“I also want to combat the violence that’s going on in particular in some of the neighborhoods of our city with the increase of shootings and deaths by gun violence,” he said. “I want to work on the issues around that and reduce the number of guns in the streets.”
Former mayoral candidate Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo endorsed Walsh on Oct. 8. Arroyo said he and Walsh share similar priorities, including closing the achievement gap in Boston, as well as providing high-quality education and economic opportunities.
“During our campaign, we talked about creating pathways out of poverty and into the middle class, closing the achievement gap that leaves too many of our students behind and ensuring that we all have a voice in the direction of our city,” he said. “While our campaign has ended, our commitment to those issues has not ended. I’m with Marty because he shares that commitment and our values.”
Mass. Senate President Therese Murray endorsed Walsh on Friday, another one of the several endorsements Walsh received in the past few weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 election.
Norton said students are important in Walsh’s campaign and one piece of his education plan is to increase college preparedness, especially focusing on 11th and 12th graders, as well to make vocational programs more available to students in Boston.
“There’s a lot of talk about graduation rates, but those are only one indicator,” Norton said. “When you look at the kids that are then going on to a two-to-four year college, it’s a small percentage of the kids that are graduating high school. And then when you look at those kids who go to two-to-four year colleges and receive their degree within six years, the number gets even smaller.”
She said Walsh knows college is not for everyone, and students should have a wide variety of options to ensure their success.
“College preparedness is one factor, but also college is thus not always the right option,” Norton said. “Marty himself, when he graduated, went to college and then dropped out of college because it wasn’t the right time for him in his life. He later got his college degree in 2009. Marty understands we need to take care of all the students in Boston, including those who may follow a nontraditional path.”
Norton said Walsh hopes to take advantage of state programs in order to subsidize the construction of schools and the upgrading of facilities.
“Education, the state of the economy in Boston, making sure people have jobs — none of these things work alone, they all work together,” said Norton. “It’s not just his education plans, it’s his comprehensive plan for the city and it will have a huge impact on Boston’s future through the kids that are going to school in Boston.”