Marty Walsh, son of Irish Immigrants, faces into one of the most exciting weeks of his political life as his bid for Mayor of Boston faces its first test as polls open for the preliminary round of the elections.
In a mayoral election the likes that have not been seen in the city of Boston for 20 years, Marty, will eagerly await the outcome of the preliminary election to find if his campaign for Mayor of Boston will continue to the ultimate election on November 5th.
Boston, once known for its strong Irish connections, has now become a city of immigrants from across the globe and this is evident in this year’s election campaign with a large and diverse field of 12 candidates seeking to replace Mayor Menino who has been in office since replacing Ray Flynn in 1993. Out of all the candidates there are only three possessing an Irish surname and Marty Walsh, is the only one that is first generation Irish, born in Boston, grew up in the inner city neighborhood of Dorchester but with both his parents from Galway, he is truly a son of Ireland.
Walsh, 46, developed a taste for politics from an early age when he would sit around the kitchen table at the family home listening to his father John and Uncle Pat, talk shop on the issues of the day. Both men belonged to the Laborers Union, Local 223, and were active in serving the community. As soon as he could, Marty followed in his father’s footsteps and became a union laborer. After having spent his life listening to discussions surrounding local politics, the labor movement and the importance of service, it came as no surprise that in 1997 Marty ran and won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Since Labor Day, both Marty and his team of campaigners have been busy with a non-stop meet and greet of all voters in every neighborhood in the city. Despite his busy schedule, Marty is relaxed as we meet for a cup of coffee during the week. In between ordering and sitting down to chat, Marty, is approached by voters wishing to speak to him. As I have witnessed many times, Marty greets every stranger as if they were friends and it is sure thing that Walsh’s down to earth, approachable manner is reason why so many residents of the Irish community and the city are standing beside him in his bid to be elected as Mayor of Boston.
As is always the way, talk soon turns to Ireland and Walsh, whose parents are from Connemara, is extremely proud of his Irish heritage but even more so to be the "son of immigrants". Having parents that emigrated from Ireland, Walsh has had a firsthand understanding of what life is like for immigrant families in the city of Boston. Due to his upbringing, Marty, is well aware of the sacrifice and hard work that is made by immigrants so that they can create better lives for themselves, their family and for their families at home. Growing up in Dorchester, considered to be the most diverse districts in Boston, has allowed him to develop an appreciation for the important and positive contribution that immigrants from all over the world including Ireland have made to his home city and the United States and simply explains his position on the national debate surrounding immigration reform as “We are a country of immigrants and this country was built by immigrants”.
Marty is firmly behind change and feels that the country needs to address the immigration issue sooner rather than later and “deal with the undocumented folks that live here”. Further discussion about how as Mayor of Boston he would support the large volumes of undocumented people living in the city amongst them over 10,000 Irish, Walsh, believes access to information is crucial in aiding the new arrivals to the city on their rights. It is hard not to be mention immigration without touching on the topic of the Secure Communities program but Marty is quick to reveal that like Mayor Menino, he is staunchly opposed to the Federal program and if he was elected as Mayor he “he would not allow people to be pulled over based on race or where they are from”.
Another issue of concern for voters is jobs and Marty, having traveled extensively to Ireland is keen to attract some of Ireland's indigenous high-tech firms to use Boston as a hub location for their companies as well as work closely with Irish organizations and companies to further develop strong working ties between his city and his parents homeland.
Of course, the first priority for Walsh is to get through this first hurdle in his bid to become the 54th Mayor of Boston city, and he is hoping that electorates will come out and use their vote to put him through to the next round because not only is he the right man for the job but his story is one of hope for every immigrant family in the city that “anything is possible and can be done”.