Ever since it was passed by the legislature in 2007, a low-level controversy has clung to Councillor Stephen Murphyâ€™s home rule petition to raise the number of nomination signatures needed to run for at-large to 1,500 from its previous level at 500.
Murphy said he wrote and pushed the petition to cut down on the number of unqualified candidates that get in the race, often citing the â€œcollege studentâ€ who ran for class credit in 2007, Matthew Geary, almost costing the city $500,000 to run a primary to cut the field of nine candidates down to eight. But Murphyâ€™s critics, some of them inside City Hall, often say it was a way to protect his own incumbency.
If that were true, it isnâ€™t working so far. Judging from conversations with the majority of the 22 candidates who pulled nomination papers last month, somewhere between 10 and 15 will be nominated.
Among the challengers who seem to be solidly over the mark, ensuring their place on the ballot with around 3,000 signatures turned in, are Bill Trabucco, Doug Bennett, Andrew Kenneally, Ego Ezedi, Tomas Gonzalez, Felix G. Arroyo, and Ayanna Pressley. With the exception of Trabucco, new to politics, and Bennett, whose Republican background on Nantucket may ultimately detract from his ability to attract voters a town full of Democrats, these are also the frontrunners in the race, according to many observers. Both Kenneally and Arroyo now have over $30,000 banked in their campaign accounts, and Pressley is coming on fast with around half that raised in a much shorter time.
Among this grouping, the 1,500 requirement is generally considered a good test.
â€œI think itâ€™s great. If you are running at large and you cannot get 1,500 signatures you donâ€™t need to be running,â€ said Kenneally. â€œIt really gets you in campaign mode. I made good use of it and Iâ€™ve been all over the city.â€
Trabucco however, said if he is elected, he would definitely change it back to 500, so that working people would have a better chance at putting their name on the ballot. Trabucco works full time as an EMT for a private ambulance company.
â€œItâ€™s really a window into the votersâ€™ thoughts. I found it very informative,â€ said Trabucco. â€œI was able to get a lot of insight out of the process.â€
A second group is employing some other tricks to edge their way over the top, such as saying little prayers and crossing their fingers. That number includes some of Dorchesterâ€™s nine additions to the field.
Tito Jackson of Dorchester, a latecomer to the race who had been on the fence about running since mid-2008, said on Monday heâ€™d already gathered around 1,500. Jacksonâ€™s social network and civic activism would make him a credible candidate.
â€œItâ€™s tough, man,â€ he said as he stood in Dudley Square gathering more. â€œBut in some ways itâ€™s good because you talk to as many people as you can.â€
â€œI donâ€™t consider 500 a frivolous number,â€ he said. â€œWe live in America and in a democracy each individual has a right to run for office. Itâ€™s good to get out there but is it harder to get 1,500 than 500? Yes.â€
Natalie Carrithers carried a similar tune, also saying that she had turned in near 100 signature sheets (which hold up to 30 signatures each).
â€œIt definitely deters a lot of folks from running. You kind of lose some key community folks,â€ she said. â€œI have 20 or 30 folks who help me, but still when you go up against these folks who have massive political machines, itâ€™s unfair.â€
She suggests a middle ground of 1,000 signatures to qualify.
Mattapanâ€™s Jean-Claude Sanon is also likely to cut it close, having turned in around 2,100 signatures according to his count. He said he wasnâ€™t aware the rules had changed until he pulled his nomination papers.
Murphy, for his part, still vociferously defends the 1,500 mark.
â€œI donâ€™t make any apologies for it. People are doing it. Youâ€™re going to have maybe 16 out of the 22 that are running qualified,â€ said Murphy this week. â€œYou have the largest field in some 16 years, so what harm has it done?â€
By the time the Reporter hits the streets, official results of the nominations may be in hand at the cityâ€™s Electionâ€™s Department. Stay tuned to our website, dotnews.com, for the latest.