Voter turnout high at 64%
Jamaica Plain was a small but enthusiastic part of Barack Obama’s historic win in the Nov. 4 presidential election. Obama, the Democratic nominee, earned 89 percent of the local vote—10 points higher than the Boston average.
About 64 percent of local voters—more than 20,000 of them—weighed in on an election that made Obama the nation’s first African-American president. The JP turnout was similar to the citywide rate in an election that excited voters across the country.
The local turnout was only slightly higher than in 2006, when Deval Patrick won the heated governor’s race. Most of the boost in turnout this year came in the Hyde, Jackson and Egleston squares areas, where the lowest turnout was 56 percent. Turnout in Moss Hill was 78 percent, one of the city’s highest figures.
Obama won 95 percent of the vote in Egleston Square. His lowest winning percentage in JP was in Moss Hill, where he still drew 72 percent of the vote. Every single precinct in JP went for Obama.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain was a distant second in local voting. Several third-party or independent candidates received only a handful of votes.
JP is often the city’s bastion of support for Green Party candidates and Ralph Nader, who ran this year as an independent presidential candidate. But local voters on Nov. 4 paid no special attention to Nader or Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.
Egleston Square-area City Councilor Chuck Turner, a member of the state Green-Rainbow Party, said the party had internal issues this year and did not support a national candidate.
“I think we elected a very intelligent, capable leader,” Turner said of Obama. “I look forward to a change.”
“What a milestone,” said local City Councilor John Tobin about Obama’s win. Tobin said he taped Obama’s dramatic Election Night victory speech and has already watched it four times. “If you watched that [speech], you’ll never forget where you were,” Tobin said.
Tobin also expressed an insider’s admiration for Obama’s political savvy, calling it the best-organized presidential campaign he has ever seen. Tobin was among those who saw it up close, campaigning on election eve in New Hampshire with Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and others.
“It’s one of the best political developments I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said state Rep. Liz Malia. “We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, but being able to change the tone with somebody like Obama at the helm is really positive.”
Malia said she and other Democratic officials are already being swamped with requests for help in getting tickets to Obama’s inauguration in January. Academy Homes housing development tenants were seeking 125 tickets at a meeting this week, she said.
On three hot-button ballot questions, JP voters agreed with statewide results, but were more emphatic in the winning percentages. Local voters opposed repealing the state income tax (85 percent against); approved the decriminalization of minor marijuana possession (78 percent in favor); and supported a ban on dog-racing (69 percent in favor).
The JP-based Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was a major backer of the dog-racing ban, which had strong support from local volunteer organizers.
Like the rest of the 2nd Suffolk District, JP gave more than 90 percent of the vote to JP resident Sonia Chang-Díaz for the local state Senate seat. Chang-Díaz will replace Dianne Wilkerson, whose political career ended last month in federal corruption charges. [See related article.] Wilkerson lost the September primary election, but had attempted a write-in campaign. Chang-Díaz’s only official competition on the ballot was Socialist Workers Party candidate William Leonard.
“Sonia Chang-Díaz is probably going to be the most famous incoming state senator of all time,” said local City Councilor John Tobin, referring to the attention Wilkerson’s political demise drew. He praised Chang-Díaz for handling the sometimes bitter campaign calmly. “People don’t think about what Sonia’s had to go through, when your opponent is just sort of dissolving in front of you,” he said.
Other local candidates ran unopposed, including state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez. Sánchez, a Moss Hill resident, was still a notable winner. Despite having no competition, he earned about 12,800 votes district-wide. That makes him the second-highest vote-getter among the 17 Boston state representatives on the ballot. Sánchez even earned more votes than the Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, who is embroiled in a financial scandal.
There were no reports of major voting problems in JP or the rest of the city, despite high turnout and a history of such problems. Three organizations that have criticized previous voting problems—MassVOTE, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—took the unusual step of praising election officials in an announcement last week.
“We were pleased with the willingness of city and state officials to work with us to ensure that the voters of Massachusetts were properly served,” said Karen Payne, president of the Boston NAACP and co-chair of the local Ward 19 Democratic Committee, in the written announcement.