By John Lynds
When the North End’s Chris Kulikoski kicked off his candidacy for the Boston City Council, it became the first time incumbent Councilor Sal LaMattina faced a challenger since narrowly beating Dan Ryan of Charlestown for the seat during a special election in 2006.
Many who love a good political fight were excited at the prospect of two men, well known in their respective communities, squaring off against one another. However, as the race for the District 1 Council seat moved along, it became evident that Kulikoski’s campaign never really took off here in East Boston or in the other neighborhoods that make up the district, such as the North End and Charlestown.
While Kulikoski, a veteran and former schoolteacher who currently runs the Mazzaro Family Market on Salem Street in the North End, may have a block of support from his hometown, LaMattina’s popularity and work in the three communities has been unmatched.
While it’s true that the more candidates, the better, because new ideas are introduced into the politics, and even if a candidate doesn’t win, the hope is that the victorious candidate will learn from his opponent and take a new vision with him to City Hall or see issues in a different light.
In the case of Kulikoski vs. LaMattina, Kulikoski has made some good arguments, but with less than a week left before the primary, Kulikoski is still virtually unknown to voters here, which proves that it takes more than just putting your name on the ballot to win an election.
Kulikoski, it seems, has been unable to find a way past LaMattina’s success and popularity in Eastie, the North End and Charlestown, and some voters may even be surprised on Tuesday to see another name on the ballot besides LaMattina’s.
Over at LaMattina’s headquarters in Eastie, the councilor has been busy campaigning, and said he “works for the entire district, not just for one neighborhood or one group”.
“Since being elected in 2006, I’ve worked hard addressing the concerns and issues for the people of District 1,” said LaMattina. “I believe that my staff and I have had many tremendous successes representing the district and working on a real solution to the problems unique to East Boston, the North End and Charlestown.”
Kulikoski, on the other hand, has deep roots in the North End. His great- grandparents emigrated from Italy and made their home in the North End. His grandmother, Sarah Mazzaro, lived her entire life in the same building at 6 Cleveland Place in the North End, where Chris was born. Like so many others from the North End, she worked for Schrafft’s in Charlestown during World War II and married her sweetheart, Chris’s grandfather, Biaggio “Pizi” Mazzaro, when he returned from his army service in the Pacific, after the war.
However, the North End represents the smallest percentage of votes in the district, and for Kulikoski to make any gains in the upcoming Democratic primary, he would have to somehow find a way to take votes away from LaMattina in his hometown of Eastie and Charlestown, a neighborhood that has warmed up greatly to LaMattina after he beat the hometown boy three years ago. It would be unlikely that Kulikoski would take votes away from LaMattina in Eastie, the North End or Charlestown, but he may find a small niche of residents or newcomers in the district to vote his way.
With that said, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Kulikoski in trying to match the 3,500 plus votes LaMattina has enjoyed since taking office.