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

Nearly two thousand votes have been cast already in 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 Everett.

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 Everett for the Sept. 1 State Primary Election. Between mail-in voting, socially-distanced rallies and statewide bus tours, Everett has been a stop for all. Shown here are U.S. Sen. Ed Markey in Everett Square with State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Mayor Carlo DeMaria on Monday.
Congressman (and U.S. Senate candidate) Joe Kennedy III in Everett Square last Thursday with Councilor Stephanie Martins.
State Rep. candidate Michael McLaughlin at his rally on Monday afternoon.
State Rep. Joe McGonagle speaking of his working relationship with Markey during that rally on Monday.

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. Joe McGonagle vs. Councilor Michael McLaughlin for state representative. In the last seven days, all four have held or attended in-person events in Everett.

City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said there had been 4,000 mail-in ballots requested by Monday of this week, much higher than anticipated. Some 1,800 had been returned, and 130 people had participated at in-person early voting in City Hall.

“We’ve probably seen close to 4,000 between early voting and absentee ballot (mail-in) requests – with only about 130 of those being in-person early voting,” he said. “We have about 1,500 to 1,800 ballots returned for mail-in voting and they continue to come in.”

He said there were probably 3,600 requests so far for mail-in ballots, being conservative. He said that could possibly represent more than 50 percent of the electorate casting their vote prior to Election Day.

“We get 6,000 people in a state primary,” he said. “If 4,000 ballots come back that’s two-thirds of voters that voted by mail. We’ll see if that happens. We expected a lighter in-person vote because of COVID-19, but we prepared for a turnout and have social distancing protocols.”

Early voting at City Hall began last Saturday. Voters can vote there in-person Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with Friday being from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Alas the last day to request a mail-in ballot to be mailed to one’s home is today, Aug. 26. Those ballots can be returned up until Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. – and can even be dropped at the City Hall (grey) drop boxes up until that time. Anyone who returns their ballot to City Hall will have those ballots sorted and sent to the proper polling place on Sept. 1. There, poll workers and Election officials will open the mail-in ballots and feed them into the proper voting machine to be counted.

Last Thursday afternoon, Kennedy hit Everett Square where Councilor Stephanie Martins endorsed him and he held a rally to enliven the large base of support he has in Everett. Kennedy said he has built his campaign on the support and endorsements of local officials like Martins.

“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.”

That stop in Everett came on a 24-hour campaign event for Kennedy that took him across the state all day and night on Thursday. He 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 – like in Everett Square – to ask for their vote.

Hitting the trail in his own bus, on Monday afternoon excitement built in Everett Square again as Markey rolled into town for a campaign stop on the ‘Leads & Delivers’ tour.

Markey – originally from Malden and very well-acquainted with Everett – drew a great deal of support from the City’s elected officials, with speakers including State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Mayor Carlo DeMaria, DA Marian Ryan, State Rep. Joe McGonagle, School Committeeman Marcony Almeida Barros and School Committeewoman Samantha Lambert. Council President Rosa DiFlorio and Councilor Wayne Matewsky were also in attendance.

All called on voters to re-elect Markey, as he has always delivered for Everett an takes his job personally when it comes to being able to help. It was also stressed that he had a common experience with the old and new Everett – 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.”

He said he came to Everett as a boy to play for Immaculate Conception Malden’s CYO basketball team against the Immaculate Conception Everett CYO team – something he remembered vividly.

“I came to Everett as a small boy and I return as your U.S. Senator and all I can ask is if you feel safe, vote in person, or if you feel it’s safe, vote early,” he said. “If you have my back for the next eight days, I’ll have your back in the U.S. Senate for the next six years.”

Prominent at the rally was McGonagle, who is in an exciting race of his own.

McGonagle talked up Markey and said they have had a great relationship working together, including to help the Fiestas family of Everett secure citizenship some years ago.

“I don’t understand why anyone would want to replace an elected official who is getting the job done,” said McGonagle of Markey.

Meanwhile, also on Monday, McLaughlin hit Everett Square with a spirited rally that included several residents and the endorsements of Councilor Michael Marchese and the UFCW Local 1445 union.

“This is a man of action and he believes in the working class and is there to support them,” said Gabe Camacho, political and organizing director for the union. “We hope our brothers and sisters in the labor movement will support him as well.”

Marchese said McLaughlin is a young leader, and represents a break from the herd mentality.

“I’m tired of the herd mentality,” he said. “Unfortunately there are no forward-thinking people there. They’re all told what to do. Michael McLaughlin brings a voice to the younger generation in Everett. I have plenty of faith in Michael McLaughlin.”

McLaughlin said he’s ready to be that new voice.

“It’s not going to be siding with the mayor or the insiders of Beacon Hill,” he said. “If I win, the people of Everett win and not the insiders.”

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