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Candidates for statewide office meet with more than 400 Roxbury-area voters at RoxVote cookout

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Candidates for statewide office meet with more than 400 Roxbury-area voters at RoxVote cookout
Candidate for lieutenant governor Steve Kerrigan greets Ward 9 Democratic Committee member Aaron Jones during RoxVote’s annual Cookout With the Candidates event last week. In all 400 voters and 32 candidates turned out for the event. (Photo: (Banner photo))

Attendees at the RoxVote Coalition’s Cookout With the Candidates event had to run a gauntlet of campaign volunteers just to get into the Dewitt Drive plaza where the event took place.

Those who stood in line for burgers and hotdogs were subjected to appeals from candidates who pressed the flesh and made one-on-one appeals to Roxbury residents for their votes.

Candidates for statewide office and challengers for state representative and state Senate seats turned out for the chance to make a pitch to the more than 400 attendees who turned out for the annual event. For many candidates, the meet-and-greet was just one of many stops scheduled that day.

Author: (Banner photo)Roxbury resident Michael Branch chats with Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins.

“We had three events before this and we have three after,” said Steve Kerrigan, who is running for lieutenant governor. “Yesterday we started out with an event in Lancaster, had an event in West Roxbury, went to Brockton for two events and the Cape for two more. Our last event was at 7 in Provincetown.”

With candidates criss-crossing the state, it’s remarkable that 32 turned out to the RoxVote event. The interest in Roxbury voters comes in an election year where 26 candidates are vying for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer and auditor.

Coming on the heels of last year’s hotly-contested mayoral race and the 2012 high-stakes election where Elizabeth Warren ousted Scott Brown for a U.S. Senate seat and President Obama defeated former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2014 electoral season has been more low-key, despite open seats in four of the state’s five constitutional offices.

“The previous candidates brought a lot of energy to the community,” said political activist and Roxbury resident Shaikh Hasib. “The community is looking for another Elizabeth Warren, but there’s no one who really stands out.”

The profusion of candidates doesn’t have just the voters confused, the candidates themselves seem to be losing count. Both Maura Healy, who is vying for attorney general, and Mike Lake, who is running for lieutenant governor, told the Banner they were the only candidates for statewide office from Boston. Healy lives in Charlestown. Lake lives in the Fenway.

Gubernatorial candidates Steve Grossman, Don Berwick,Evan Falchuk, Mark Fisher and Scott Lively were among those at the event.

Author: (Banner photo)Candidate for attorney general Maura Healey shares a moment with Michael Josey and Victoria Williams.

In addition to the candidates for constitutional offices, candidates for the Suffolk County sheriff’s office, Register of Probate and Family Court, the 1st and 2nd Suffolk Senate seats and the 7th Suffolk house made appearances.

The RoxVote cookout is part of the organization’s effort to generate interest in this year’s races.

“Folks often don’t pay attention to the smaller races,” said Woody Vainquer, civic engagement outreach coordinator for Madison Park. “If we don’t do the work we do, if we don’t put out voter guides, people could miss out on a lot of this.”

RoxVote, a project of the Madison Park Development Corporation, was founded in 2006, a time when the rate of voter turnout in Roxbury was among the lowest in the city. Since its inception, voter turnout has been increasing in Roxbury, according to Madison Park Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Jeanne Pinado.

“We are continuing to energize the Roxbury voter base,” she said. “Getting 32 candidates out to Roxbury is fabulous.”