HAVERHILL — The Republican and Democratic parties brought their heavy hitters to the city on the eve of the election to determine Haverhill's next state representative.
School Committeeman Shaun Toohey was hoping Gov. Charlie Baker could bring Toohey's campaign a boost heading into Tuesday's election. The governor showed up Monday morning at Mark's Deli in downtown Railroad Square to sip a cup of coffee, chat with constituents and vouch for Toohey, the Republican candidate in the special election to succeed former Rep. Brian Dempsey in the 3rd Essex District.
But not 100 yards west of the deli on Washington Street Monday, volunteers were working hard at the campaign headquarters of Toohey's Democratic opponent, City Councilor Andy Vargas, who is looking to turn a wave of weekend momentum into a win Tuesday.
For the second straight weekend, state and federal Democrats showed up in Haverhill to support Vargas. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and state Attorney General Maura Healey made stops here to help the 24-year old making his first run for state office.
The weekend before, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, Reps. Niki Tsongas and Seth Moulton, and state Auditor Suzanne Bump brought a healthy dose of political star power to the Vargas campaign.
Toohey and Vargas are hoping a combination of charisma, elbow grease and old-fashioned politicking will be enough to win the special election Tuesday. While Toohey has received the endorsement of multiple state police and correctional officer unions, Vargas received the endorsements of both the state and Haverhill firefighters unions over the weekend.
On Monday, Baker spoke of Toohey's membership on the Republican State Committee as proof he can work collaboratively in a large body of diverse interests. Baker said Toohey's 14-year tenure on the Haverhill School Committee would serve him well on Beacon Hill.
"Shaun brings experience he has in the community to Beacon Hill. There's no substitute for understanding how local government works when you're working in the Statehouse," said Baker, who, like Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, was a member of his town's selectboard prior to his run for governor. "You really know what their concerns are, what their issues are, and you know how to represent them.
"You know when you're talking to somebody on Beacon Hill who has experience with local government, because they bring a knowledge and capability to the conversation you don't see elsewhere," Baker said.
As Baker left the deli to head back to Boston, Toohey said he is "humbled by the support of the governor and lieutenant governor," adding that he knows he can "hit the ground running" and work "in a bipartisan fashion to deliver real results for the people of Haverhill."
Vargas spent much of Monday morning visiting senior citizens at the downtown Phoenix Row housing complex, as well as coffee shops around the district, refusing to rest on the praise he received from Warren and Healey over the weekend.
During her visit, Warren stressed that Vargas will be an advocate for working families in the state, while Healey, the state's top law enforcement official, said she expects Vargas to support education and to protect both the environment and civil rights on Beacon Hill.
"As someone who cares deeply about Haverhill, he will bring to the table thoughtful, forward-thinking ideas as the district’s next state representative," Warren said. "From improving health care affordability, investing in good-paying jobs and working to combat the opioid crisis, Andy will fight every day for his district."
On Monday afternoon, Vargas said his campaign is maintaining an underdog mentality and that he is applying many lessons he learned from his first City Council race in 2015.
"I've always said that every day, we wake up thinking we're down 10 points," he said, adding that local volunteers and students will be out holding signs and campaigning on Tuesday. "In 2015, I learned voters appreciate two things: working hard and providing hope.
"We've stayed positive since day one. We've tried to stay above the muck and take the high road," Vargas continued. "Like Michelle Obama said, 'When they go low, we go high.'"
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