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^ the six 1st Suffolk candidates at a recent Forum. L to R ; Joe Ruggiero, Camilo Hernandez, Ed Deveau, Adrian Madaro, Joanne Pomodoro, Lou Scapicchio

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Three weeks ago, when I first delved into the campaign to elect a new East Boston State Representative, the race looked very close between at least two, maybe three, of the five Democrats running. It looks almost as close even now, with voting time only four days away.

Winter’s “snow-mageddon” hasn’t stopped anything. The candidates are door-knocking, phone-banking, doing “stand-outs,” holding fundraisers at local yacht clubs (Really, yacht clubs ? in winter ? Yep), posting house signs all over “Eastie.”

The money hasn’t stopped, either. Since the campign began — the moment that Governor Baker announced he was appointing Representative Carlo Basile his appointments Secretary — the five Democrats have raised (as of the latest OCPF report) a total of $ 202,300 and change. The final figure will surely far surpass even this momentous amount.

Votes elect, but money almost elects. The money race is almost a dead heat between the top two men, Adrian Madaro and Joe Ruggiero, with Ed Deveau not impossibly behind :

Total raised : Madaro 74,853; Ruggiero 69,395; Deveau 39,289.17
Raised Jan 1st through Feb 13 : Madaro 34,885 Ruggiero 31,720 Deveau 25,905.21
Raised before jan 1st : Madaro 39,967 Ruggiero 37,675 Deveau 11,376

The February 13th “end balance” looks better for Joe Ruggiero than any of his rivals —

Ruggiero 46,089.73 Madaro 22,579.27 Deveau 18,497.52

— suggesting that the race is even tighter than the money raised numbers look.

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closer than close in the money race : Adrian Madaro (L) and Joe Ruggiero (R)

Nonetheless, my observations of the race tell me that Ruggiero, an Orient Heights Funeral Home Owner, and the most personable of men, is behind:

1.At the most recent two candidate Forums, at East Boston social Centers on February 18th and East Boston High School on February 24th, Ruggiero attacked Adrian Madaro, who for the past four years had been Basile’s chief of staff. His attack was mild — he expressed skepticism about how valuable Madaro’s state house experience was — but the rule is still true : you do not attack a rival if you think you’re ahead.

2.At his campaign kickoff at Spinelli’s about three weeks ago, Ruggiero drew about 300 people. At a GOTV (get out the vote) rally at East Boston Yacht Club on February 20, the count was more like 120 people. It’s not a good sign when a campaign draws fewer people closer to election day than early on.

3.Mayor Walsh has endorsed Ruggiero, spoken at his events, and gone all-in, with passion. He has marshalled union activists and some City hall people for Ruggiero; they have door-knocked and phone-banked with the same passion the Mayor wears on his sleeve. Yet in a very local campign like this one, it’s far better to risk your all on your own neighbors. They, after all, and not the Mayor, are the ones who will elect you.

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all-in : Mayor Marty Walsh at Joe Ruggiero’s “GOTV” rally at the East Boston Yacht Club

Meanwhile, Governor Baker, who surely wants to see his appointments secretary’s protege win, has hardly touched the race. Not until a “GOTV” rally on February 25th did I see even one recognized “Baker guy” at a Madaro event’ That would be Revere City Councillor Tony Zambuto, whose presence at Madaro’s rally sent a message which hitherto had been reserved for implication.

i suspect that everyone in East Boston knows that Adrian Madaro, having worked for Basile, has that kind of Govenor Baker connection; yet because Baker has made almost no overt move to influence the race, Madaro has had to earn whatever vote he gets on Tuesday pretty much on his own, using local support by choice. (And he has plenty : all ages, all ethnicities, newcomers to the neighborhood, old timers, all points of view. I’ve seen it at his events.) That is how it is done.

Nor can I find even a single obvious Baker name among Madaro’s OCPF-listed donors. Instead, those who gave include a large number of very prominent Boston activists : former City Councillors Diane Modica and Larrry DiCara, Susan Passoni, several Tassinari’s, Fred salvucci, Rich Dimino, former East Boston representative Mike D’Avolio, Mary Ellen Welch, past Lieutenant Governor candidate Mike Lake, and Liam Kerr of Democrats for Education Reform. Some of these probably voted for Baker; but I cannot recall seeing any on his donor list. They’re Madaro people.

That is how it is done. Baker has proven himself a very shrewd player at a game at which, in Boston, shrewdness still matters — a lot.


^ Ed Deveau chatas up a voter at the Jeffries Point candidates’ Forum

What of the other three ? Strongest seems to be Ed Deveau, 13 years a State House staffer for East Boston state Senator Anthony Petrucelli. With somewhat less money, but touting his extensive Beacon Hill work, Deveau has pretty much matched the two leaders’ outreach. Still, my sense is that Deveau lacks strength all across East Boston. In particular, I see little of him in Jeffries Point and not much more than that in Eagle Hill. These two neighborhoods, in both of which Madaro looks strong, comprise about half the District.


^ personable : Camilo Hernandez wearing his trademark “CH” arm band

Camilo Hernandez has campaigned extensively in Spanish — he’s a Colombian immigrant who now serves as City Councillor LaMattina’s outreach to the Hispanic community — and given the high concentration of Hispanic voters in the Central square and day square neighborhoods, it’s likely that on name alone, Hernandez will win votes. Yet he has not spoken to any of the major Beacon Hill issues even when pressed by questions at Forums.

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^ knowledgeable and smart : Lou scapicchio

Then there’s Lou Scapicchio, cousin of former City Councillor Paul Scapicchio. He’s an attorney at the Soldiers Home in Chelsea and speaks to every issue with authority and in complete sentences. Yet as smart as he certainly is, he started very late — fatal to most candidacies — has raised the least money, has the least broadly rooted of the five campaigns and seems an opportunity missed.

So there you have it.

We’ll know the winner at about 10 PM on Tuesday night. I think it’ll be Madaro; but it would not shock me to see Joe Ruggiero edge ahead.

The winner will face independent candidate Joanne T. Pomodoro,a social worker at Massachusetts General hospital, on March 31st. there is no Republican on the ballot.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere