Ten try for mayoral ballot, Menino jumps in

It isn’t everyone who just ups and decides to run for mayor. But then again maybe it’s trending that way. Outside of the challengers we know by now—contractor Kevin McCrea and councillors Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty—there are six others who pulled papers for the job when the window at the city’s election department opened up last week, making a total of nine. Incumbent Mayor Tom Menino’s announcement yesterday makes it 10.

So, we ask, what makes a man decide to run for mayor, particularly one who is unknown and without a bankroll, and facing dismal odds?

Garreth Saunders of Jamaica Plain is perhaps the best suited of the newbies to face those odds, a man with political experience. Not an unknown by any meaning of the word, he sat in City Council’s District 7 seat from 1994 to 1999 before he left to pursue other opportunities, leaving the door open for Chuck Turner who has held the office ever since.

For years after leaving the council, he ran a consulting business and got involved in his church, the Greater Love Tabernacle in Dorchester, and didn’t look back. But recently, he said, he began to miss the political life.

As a “Monday morning quarterback” he said he began to see things going wrong in the city. The high school dropout rates were high, and youth were still being shot on a regular basis, particularly in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury.

“I don’t like how the city of Boston is being run,” he said this week. “I think the incumbent has done some good things out there, but I think he has been out of touch and less motivated lately. I think it’s time for him to move aside.”

Boston Public Schools seemed to be the greatest common motivator among the new crowd, but by no means was it the only one.

Gary Finneran, 54 – a co-owner of his family’s limousine service Boston Town Car, Inc. – called the Reporter with the sounds of his baby boy Jacky goo-gooing and ga-gaing in the background.
“It just kind of hit me about the condition of the schools,” he said, “and what I could do different. I really believe I can change the schools to be the best school system in the U.S.”

Finneran has four children in all, including a Simmons College graduate. None of them went to Boston Public Schools, he said, because he never knew he would be running for mayor and he “avoided it.” Nor does he have experience working in the schools, but he does have ideas. For starters, he suggests more after-school programs and better school lunches.

“I think they just need more attention. They just need to know you’re on their side,” he said.
BPS was also a big motivator for Joe Wiley, a 60-year-old from East Boston working in commercial real estate. But even more so Wiley wants to clean up the streets, literally.

“You’re confronted with trash in the streets and plastic bags blowing in the wind,” Wiley said. “It’s a very demoralizing thing. It looks like no one cares.”

Unlike others who have signed up, Wiley makes a point of not calling himself a candidate until he gets the signatures he needs to qualify. That race against time starts on April 28, when the potential candidates get their nomination papers. They must turn them in by May 19, with well over the 3,000 required in order to compensate for any that might be disqualified by the elections department. Wiley is reasonable about his chances.

“This may be a foolhardy attempt on my part, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’d made a fool of myself in my life,” he said. “If I get those signatures I will have a chance to explain my ideas.”

Both Saunders and South Boston’s John Hanney tried their hand at signature gathering in 2005’s mayoral race and failed. Saunders fell short by only a few hundred. Hanney was far below the mark, but he said he’d “lived and learned” and this year he’d make it on the ballot. An ex-Republican running as an independent this year, Hanney seems to be going for the angry vote.

“I’m running because I’m tired of being ripped off by the government,” Hanney said from his East Seventh Street home. “The taxes are ridiculous. The house prices have gone down but they still want to get everything they can from you for property taxes.”

Hanney is also ticked off about tickets and towing on street cleaning days—“Somebody’s gotta be getting a kickback on that.” And the fact that a woman has the right to get an abortion in the Commonwealth—“I’m the only one that’s going to be pro-life.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political spectrum, William Theodore Leonard of the Socialist Workers Party—the same folks that can be seen outside of T stops handing out copies of the Socialist Worker—said he is after nothing short of revolutionary change. But in the meantime, he’ll run for mayor.

“We’re facing the greatest financial crisis since the Depression,” Leonard said Monday. “My campaign is to put forward ideas about how workers can defend themselves from a contracting economy.”
Pressed on his vision for revolutionary change, Leonard—who also ran against Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Dianne Wilkerson last year—wouldn’t go so far as to ruling out the electoral systems already in place, instead referring obliquely to a system where the workers would make the decisions, not the people who make them now. For more details, you can find Leonard marching in the May Day parade May 1 in Central Square, East Boston at 2 p.m.

Last but not least, leading the fundraising race is William Feegbeh, a 40-year-old who describes himself as a Northeastern political science graduate. He grew up in Brockton after coming over from Liberia in the 1970s when he was around seven years old. According to the Office of Campaign & Political Finance he has $205 left over from an attempt to run for City Council at-large in 2007. With this little nest egg, Feegbeh has sky-high ambitions.

“For me right now I should be running for higher office, maybe congressman or senator,” he said in a phone interview this week. “But I don’t have money so that causes me to run for a little one. If I had a job I’d wait for a few years and not mess with this one. It’s an entry-level position in government.”
Meanwhile, the fellow who has been sitting in that “entry-level” job for the past 16 years, amassing a campaign war chest well over $1.5 million, has leaked news to the dailies that he will announce his campaign this week. In recent weeks he has given off a multitude of signals that he is running, including reportedly hiring a campaign manager, filming a commercial and throwing up campaign signs. Now finally, Mayor Thomas Menino is in.

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