Mayoral hopefuls chase signatures

As voters trickled into the polls across the city on Tuesday, mayoral hopefuls flooded the Election Department office to pick up nomination papers and begin to gather the signatures needed to make it onto this fall’s ballot.

Dozens of candidates for mayor, councilor-at-large, district seats, their operatives, and their supporters showed up early Tuesday morning to lay their hands on the papers. Twenty-four potential mayoral candidates had applied for nomination papers.

By the end of the day, close to 4:30 p.m., Dorchester state Rep. Marty Walsh had submitted 4,188 signatures, according to his campaign. Hyde Park Councillor Rob Consalvo's camp said on Wednesday that it had gathered 4,500 signatures. City Councillor At-Large John Connolly's campaign claimed to 3,500 signatures.

Walsh, one of the first candidates to jump into the race to succeed Mayor Thomas Menino, will hold a noontime kick-off this Saturday (May 4) at the Strand Theatre.

Mayoral candidates must gather at least 3,000 certified signatures to gain a place on the ballot. While voters are able to sign multiple mayoral nomination papers, the campaign that gets its signatures certified first will be the only one it counts toward.

And despite words of discouragement from the Election Department, many candidates and their supporters stayed close to the entrances of polling locations, creating narrow gauntlets for voters to walk through on their way to cast ballots in US Senate and state Senate primaries.

At Cristo Rey High School in Savin Hill, voters were buttonholed by signature gatherers for Walsh, City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo, and Codman Square Health Center co-founder Bill Walczak. A supporter of Annissa Essaibi George, a yarn shop owner running for City Council At-Large, was also there gathering signatures.

Campaigns continued to staff up: Charlotte Golar Richie, a former state representative from Dorchester who has worked for Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino, hired Newgrange Consulting Group to help her campaign. Its CEO, James McGee, who has worked on the campaigns of Congressman Stephen Lynch and state Rep. Michael Moran (D-Brighton), will serve as her campaign manager.

Meanwhile, City Councillor At-Large Arroyo hired Northwind Strategies, a political consulting firm headed by Gov. Deval Patrick’s former chief of staff, to work on his campaign. Doug Rubin, who also worked on US Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign last year, will be among the people consulting Arroyo, the councillor said.

And Cayce McCabe, after steering state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry's state Senate campaign to victory on Tuesday night, headed to Mission Hill Councillor Michael Ross's mayoral campaign.

On the fundraising front, City Councillor At-Large Connolly's campaign announced that they had raised $166,000 in April and they have close to $500,000 cash-on-hand.

Community activist John Barros, a Dorchester resident who was executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, kicked off his mayoral bid last week, after resigning from the School Committee. “I will ensure a strong local economy, supporting small businesses, leveraging downtown, and unleashing the potential of entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the city,” he told a crowd of about 50 supporters at the Haley House Café in Roxbury.

The Barros gathering included folks like Isaura Mendes, an anti-violence activist, and Judith Kurland, a former chief-of-staff to Mayor Menino.

Kurland, who is now at UMass Boston’s Center for Community Democracy and Democratic Literacy, said Barros displays “optimism about people and neighborhoods. He’s one of the greatest community organizers I’ve ever seen.”

Barros has hired Matt Patton, who has worked on campaigns for Gov. Patrick and Sen. Warren, as his campaign manager.

Patton and Barros both showed up on the early side of Tuesday morning and made their way through the crowd of people waiting to pick up nomination papers.

On the way out, as he headed to City Hall Plaza, Barros walked over to a fellow candidate, TOUCH 106.1 FM co-founder Charles Clemons, and hugged him. “Catch you on the trail,” Barros said.