Schofield could get over 1000 just from "the Russians" — the large number of elderly Russian Jews living in and around the Brighton Wallingford Street residential-living complex. They often vote as a bloc — against Schofield in his previous races, but, as the only Bostonian in the race, he has their votes this time, according to city political insiders.

Moran, Honan, Ciommo, and others can help drive turnout in Boston. The bigger question, however, concerns the progressives who could put him over the top.

Progressive activists have demonstrated their ground-game strength of late, helping candidates like Pressley and Suzanne Lee exceed expectations in last month's municipal elections.

Not in Brighton, however. Turnout there was dismal in that election, as it was when Schofield finished a disappointing third in the 2007 city council race. Some close observers of the State Senate race have written off Schofield's chances, specifically because they don't think those Brighton progressives will come through for him.


TOUGH FIELD

In fact, the other candidates believe they will have more luck poaching votes away from Schofield in Boston than he will have north of the Charles River.

The front-runner, in most people's minds, is Brownsberger. A smart, pragmatic liberal who emphasizes "environmental, economic, and social sustainability," Brownsberger won a landslide re-election to his House seat last year. In addition to his Belmont base, he is said to be doing well in Cambridge and is competitive in Watertown.

But he is being targeted by McCarthy, who this week received Tolman's endorsement. McCarthy will get union-household votes from all over the district. Plus, he's receiving considerable labor support in the form of contributions and volunteers.

He is also making a not-very-subtle appeal to those older neighborhood voters, by describing himself as a working-class guy struggling on a fixed income (his pension), running against career politicians and lawyers.

It's pretty clear that McCarthy is particularly aiming at Brownsberger, who has undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. The McCarthy campaign is also beginning to go after Brownsberger and Hecht as phony liberals. Brownsberger has championed pension and municipal-health reforms that labor decries — the conservative Pioneer Institute even gave him a "Better Government" award for the effort, which, Brownsberger detractors love to point out, was given at a September event keynoted by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

"I happen to believe in collective bargaining," Tolman said to me on Monday after endorsing McCarthy. "Hecht and Brownsberger obviously don't."

Brownsberger doesn't back down from what he believes are necessary long-term fixes to the state's fiscal health. "If you're a serious progressive, you want to make sure everybody's included in society," he says. "If we don't do the things we need to do to make the state sound, we won't be able to do that."

If McCarthy — who has already sent out five targeted mailings and has the resources for plenty more — decides to really blast away at Brownsberger, that could open a lot of liberal votes for Schofield.

On the other hand, McCarthy just might convince large numbers of those Brighton neighborhood voters to go with him, regardless of what side of the river he's from.


THE MENINO FACTOR

There is one more wild card: Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

In a low-turnout race, Menino's machine has the ability to pull out enough voters to make a real difference.

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