The Huntington News

Boston businesses endorse candidates — democratically

Flames+Restaurant+II+on+Huntington+Avenue+displays+campaign+poster+for+Suffolk+County+district+attorney+candidate+Rachael+Rollins+in+its+window.+%2F+Photo+by+Brian+Bae
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Boston businesses endorse candidates — democratically

Flames Restaurant II on Huntington Avenue displays campaign poster for Suffolk County district attorney candidate Rachael Rollins in its window. / Photo by Brian Bae

Flames Restaurant II on Huntington Avenue displays campaign poster for Suffolk County district attorney candidate Rachael Rollins in its window. / Photo by Brian Bae

Flames Restaurant II on Huntington Avenue displays campaign poster for Suffolk County district attorney candidate Rachael Rollins in its window. / Photo by Brian Bae

Flames Restaurant II on Huntington Avenue displays campaign poster for Suffolk County district attorney candidate Rachael Rollins in its window. / Photo by Brian Bae

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By Rhyia Bibby, news correspondent

Many Boston neighborhoods are plastered with political signs displayed in storefronts lining the streets, as midterm elections draw near.

Walking through neighborhoods where political signs adorn the streets like in the North End, Mission Hill and South Boston, it may seem that Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have an easy election ahead of them.

Some local businesses tend to outsource the management of their window space to the community, letting them decide who and what deserves a spot in the window and choosing to stay out of it themselves.

“We give people a chance, all people, all places,” said Janice Chambers, a manager at Flames Restaurant II on Huntington Avenue in Mission Hill.

Mai Trinh, the owner of Fleet Dry Cleaning on Fleet Street in the North End, lets her clients hang whatever signs they want on the inside of her window, choosing to keep her own political beliefs separate from her business. “I’m trying to run a business. Politics— it’s like religion, I don’t like to get involved at all,” Trinh said.

Ryan Nguyen, the owner of Gaelic Day Spa & Salon on West Broadway Street in South Boston — which is currently sporting signs for Governor Baker, state representative candidate David Biele and Suffolk County district attorney candidate Rachael Rollins — believes competition between candidates is what keeps the community in a state of constant improvement. So, he lets all political candidates, regardless of party affiliation, use his window to educate and influence the public.

“Maybe they’re curious, you know? Maybe they’ll Google them up, and it will change their point of view on that one person,” Nguyen said.

But does it work?

Well, if you ask Ann Benvenuto, employee at Romano Florist on Hanover Street in the North End, the answer is no.

“I don’t even think they notice, to be honest with you,” Benvenuto said when asked about the small Charlie Baker sign hanging in the door. “They don’t care. It’s a flower shop; they come here for their flowers.”

But Benvenuto, who has worked at the family-owned florist for 65 years, has never let someone put up a political sign until now. “The boss has to like him,” she said, referring to her brother, who owns the shop and knows Baker personally.  

While some business owners who let anyone put signs up in their windows are trying to improve the community through competition and discussion, some owners hang signs to promote candidates they believe will get the job done.

John, the owner of Mother Anna’s restaurant, which has a large Charlie Baker sign hanging from the balcony above the entrance, has a similar vetting process as Romano Florist — which is right across the street. The sign was the decision of the landlord, but John, who asked his last name  not be published, said his precious window space isn’t available to just anybody.

“I support people who feel like I do […] Democratic, Republican, that don’t mean anything […] I’d have to check to see that they’re alright,” John said.

None of the businesses interviewed reported any negative backlash in response to their signs. To Jean Exantus, a criminal justice major at Bridgewater University, the signs have little bearing on how he will vote.

“When I vote, I vote based on the facts,” Exantus said.

While the signs do not sway his political opinions, he believes in the effect local businesses can have on informing the public. Exantus didn’t know of Ayanna Pressley, who at the time was campaigning to beat Michael Capuano for his seat in U.S. Congress, until he came across one of her signs hanging in the window of a store in Dorchester. After doing some research of his own, he discovered that she had been elected to city council twice before and ended up casting his vote in her favor.  

“Their view may be different than mine, but that doesn’t make anybody right about anybody,” Nguyen said, “But we’re running a business, we’re looking for profit. We’re looking to the people in office to make things better.”  

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