The crowd at Martin Walsh's headquarters was ecstatic after they learned he was the top vote getter in Boston's preliminary mayoral election Tuesday.
They chanted "Marty! Marty!" and pumped signs in the air that said “Are you ready?” The Irish pub anthem by the Dropkick Murphys “Shipping Up to Boston” blared over the loudspeaker, as Walsh took the stage to deliver his victory speech.
"We did it," the Dorchester State Representative called to the crowd.
Walsh’s speech touched on themes of education, public safety, and economic inequality.
“Yes, Boston is growing and attracting new people but the high cost of living makes it hard for seniors and middle class families to stay in the city they know and they love,” he said.
Walsh spoke about his working class roots.
“I grew up in Dorchester, in a house where my parents started the day at 5AM. My father went to work as a laborer, while my mother raised my brother and me.”
He mentioned his struggles early in life– first with cancer and then with alcoholism.
“Boston was there for me when I overcame cancer as a 7-year-old boy and a drinking problem as a young adult.”
Throughout his campaign, Walsh has enjoyed strong union support. He worked as a union laborer before being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1997, and stayed active in union affairs as a lawmaker.
In the lead up to the preliminary, legions of union members delivered flyers, made phone calls, knocked on doors. Walsh had the largest field organization of any candidate - with with more than 2,000 volunteers on the streets and 10 field offices across the city.
Steve Tolman the head of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO said the unions rallied around Walsh:
“Tonight’s the night to say, you know we got behind our candidate, we believed in him. Tonight’s the night to say, 'Yes Marty, you’re our guy going forward.'”
Walsh called Tuesday’s vote “a great start” but said there’s still a lot of work ahead before the Nov. 5 general election.
“What makes this election so big and so important is that after two decades of Mayor Tom Menino, his trusted leadership, we are stepping into a new era," he said. "We recognize the next 20 years will be different from the last — new problems, new opportunities and new challenges.”
In the next six weeks, Walsh will work to broaden his support beyond his union base. He said he’s keen to fight for his values of opportunity, equality and community.
“I am very optimistic about where our city’s headed, but I want to make sure we all get there together.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.