Mayoral candidates race for signatures, and then some

Signatures: Frank O'Brien signs up on volunteer Steve Kinney's clipboard in support of Michael Flaherty's nomination for mayor on Tuesday.Signatures: Frank O'Brien signs up on volunteer Steve Kinney's clipboard in support of Michale Flaherty's nomination for mayor on Tuesday.The campaigns of incumbent Thomas Menino and challenger Michael Flaherty engaged in their first street skirmish Tuesday, as both campaigns asked volunteers to take a vacation day to make a show of power in gathering thousands of signatures on the day nomination papers are handed out by the city’s Elections Department.

Flaherty’s campaign declared they gathered over 4,000 signatures in five hours on Tuesday and turned them in for certification. That’s 1,000 more than the 3,000 required to get on the ballot. Because signatures can be and often are disqualified by Boston’s Election Department, the campaign will continue to ask supporters to sign up.

Our goal is to use this process to engage as many voters as possible,” said Flaherty spokesperson Jonathan Romano Monday.

Menino’s campaign traditionally tallies Tuesday’s entire signature haul and hands them in on the following day. At noon Wednesday, Emily Nowlin, Menino’s campaign manager said the campaign was submitting 19,000 signatures to the Elections Department.

“Not too shabby,” said Nowlin. “There’s a reason we were here from 10 a.m. until 5 a.m. yesterday.”

In Dorchester, Flaherty’s team found fertile ground in Adams Village, which has long been a stronghold for the councillor. A number of voters passed up Menino’s volunteers but picked up the pen when they heard Flaherty’s name.

But in Savin Hill’s Ward 13, precinct 10, traditionally a heavy-voting district, Menino’s volunteers were winning out.

Challenger Sam Yoon’s campaign was considerably less visible Tuesday. Yoon’s campaign strategist Jim Spencer scoffed when told both Flaherty and Menino plan to be certifiable candidates on the same day papers are distributed.

“We’ve got a plan but it’s certainly not to get our signatures in 24 hours,” said Spencer, also criticizing the other campaigns’ plans to gather signatures in excess of what is needed to qualify. “After we get our signatures and qualify, we’re going to canvas door-to-door.”

To be fair, Yoon’s campaign is not easily comparable to that of Menino, as the mayor used—at least partly—city workers taking vacation days to collect signatures. Menino took advantage of legions of workers from City Hall and other departments and agencies to put well over 600 volunteers on the streets, according to people who were part of the effort, and around 50 in “coastal” Dorchester.

Flaherty put the call out to electrical workers (including some from Dorchester’s Sully Mac), Boston’s firefighters and police, and worked his family connections, which are vast. His campaign spokesman said they had turned out “hundreds” of volunteers.