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Boston mayoral candidates compete for signatures

Candidates descend on Dudley seeking supporters

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Boston mayoral candidates compete for signatures
Mayor Martin Walsh secures a voter’s signature in Dudley Square. The city’s Election Department made nomination papers available Tuesday last week.

Nomination papers were issued last week for the 2017 mayoral and city council races, and candidates wasted little time hitting the streets, some as solo acts, others with armies of volunteers to collect the signatures they will need to secure a spot on the Sept. 26 ballot.

City Councilor Tito Jackson chats with commuters at the Dudley Square bus station as he collects signatures for his mayoral bid.

In Dudley Square, Mayor Martin Walsh and mayoral challenger and District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson stood no more than 15 yards apart, each holding a clipboard for signatures.

Walsh, who told the Boston Herald that Roxbury is an important base for his re-election effort, said he received a warm reception from the potential voters he greeted in Dudley Station.

“It’s great,” he said, pausing from gathering signatures and posing for selfies. “Almost everyone I’ve talked to said they’re voting for me.”

Nearby, Jackson explained the nomination process to Dorchester resident Anthony Anderson.

“I just need your signature and your address, and it will allow me to appear on the ballot,” he said.

Mayoral candidates need 3,000 signatures of registered voters in order to appear on the ballot. While that threshold should not present much of an obstacle for Jackson or Walsh, both of whom have substantial organizations, collecting signatures can demonstrate the strength of a political organization. By 8 p.m. last Tuesday, the Walsh campaign boasted 12,317 signatures collected by several hundred volunteers in every ward in the city. On his Facebook account, Jackson said he had collected more than 3,000.

In addition to Jackson and Walsh, Roslindale antiviolence advocate Mary A. Franklin, Dorchester resident Donald M. Osgood Sr. and Christopher G. Womack are running for mayor.

As fierce as the competition for mayoral signatures was last week, the race to gather signatures for at-large and district council seats could be even more fierce. Although district councilors are required to submit just 200 signatures — because they’re competing for a limited pool of registered voters, and each voter can nominate only one candidate in the race — the 14 people who declared for the District 7 seat must race to submit signatures.

If more than one candidate obtains signatures from the same voter, the first to submit the signature secures the voter’s signature. Nomination papers are date- and time-stamped as soon as they’re submitted. Election Department officials typically count signatures submitted by a candidate until the 3,000-vote threshold is reached (or 150 in the district race), then stop. Signatures beyond the minimum threshold are not certified.

In addition to securing a spot on the ballot and flexing political muscle, the signature-gathering serves another important purpose, notes Jackson campaign volunteer Ron Bell, who caught potential voters waiting for the 42 bus in Dudley Station.

“The importance of getting signatures is to identify voters and get them to the polls on September 26 and in November,” he said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. We’re working around the clock.”

Many District 7 candidates were in Dudley Square last Tuesday, although many of the commuters who pass through the MBTA’s busiest bus terminal don’t live in the Roxbury-based district. Some candidates stuck to knocking on doors of registered voters in the district.

“I’m really thankful to have a team of volunteers who were out with me, hitting the streets, knocking on doors and collecting signatures,” said District 7 candidate Kim Janey.