Waging an aggressive, well-staffed campaign, Tito Jackson won a landslide victory in the preliminary balloting for the District 7 City Council seat vacated by Chuck Turner.
Jackson garnered 67 percent of the vote in the 7-way race, with 1,943 of the 2,886 votes cast. Cornell Mills, who will face off against Jackson in the March 15 election, received 9 percent with 271 votes, beating out third-place finisher Danielle Williams by just 13 votes.
Jackson’s victory came as little surprise, coming on the heels of a fifth place finish in the 2009 race for an at-large seat on the council.
“He was well organized,” said political consultant Louis Elisa. “He has been constantly in campaign mode. All of the elements were already in place.”
If there were a recipe for such a lopsided victory, the first ingredient would be preparation. In addition to his well-oiled campaign machine, Jackson may also have benefited from work in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration and work on his re-election campaign, which helped him form relationships with top-level campaign strategists and operatives.
The next ingredient for Jackson’s victory would be money. Beginning the year with $9,551 in his account, Jackson had raised $57,934 by the Feb. 15 filing date and still had $20,885 on hand for his push to the March 15 final.
By contrast, Mills reported just $2,760 in contributions by the Feb. 15 filing date. Third place finisher Danielle Williams reported just $600 in contributions.
Along with money and preparation, add endorsements from labor unions, some of which supplied scores of well-seasoned campaign volunteers. And first lady Diane Patrick’s recent endorsement is sure to add another obstacle for potential campaign opponents.
Facing off against Jackson under these circumstances, his rivals might ordinarily have had a chance. But a special election held on a bitterly cold day in February favors the candidate with resources — cars and vans to drive voters to the polls.
District 7, which includes all of Roxbury and precincts in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and the South End, saw turnout of just seven percent of registered voters.
In the end, the sheer size of Jackson’s campaign organization overpowered the rest of the field. Veterans of the Patrick campaign, Jackson’s own volunteers and organizers working with SEIU 1199 made multiple contacts with likely voters, identifying Jackson’s supporters then getting them out to vote on election day.
“This was the easiest election day I’ve ever been in,” said one organizer with 1199, during Jackson’s campaign celebration at Slades bar and Grille last Tuesday evening. “There were so many voter contacts, a few people were like, ‘this is the third time you all have called me. I’m not voting for him because of that.’ But if you lose five people and you get a hundred, that’s a good thing.”
On the other side of Roxbury at the Breezeway, on Blue Hill Avenue, Mills rallied a more subdued gathering of two dozen supporters, including his mother, ex-state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, telling them he plans to press on.
“We have 30 more days,” he said. “The score is now zero to zero.”