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Potential field for office strong; Making the ballot another matter.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

To take out nomination papers for public office is one thing; to qualify for the ballot, we'll that's something else.

At first blush, it would seem this has the makings of one of the most interesting and competitive municipal elections that Worcester has seen in many years.

As of noon on Friday, 45 people had taken out nomination papers for seats on the City Council or School Committee.

If all those people return their nomination papers and qualify for the ballot, preliminary elections would be needed in September for all but two contests -- the District 3 and District 5 seats on the City Council.

That kind of interest and competitiveness is something that hasn't been seen in a long while in Worcester.

But of the 45 people who have taken out nomination papers, only 13 have so far qualified for the municipal ballot by turning in the required number of signatures on their nomination papers.

Mind you, nomination papers have been available since March 3. But in the two months that have followed, less than a third of those who have taken out papers have made it onto the ballot.

That is why we won't know for another couple of weeks just what kind of election season there is going to be in Worcester.

Candidates have until May 19, which is just a little more than two weeks away, to turn in their nomination papers to the Election Commission for certification of signatures.

There is still time for candidates to get signatures and turn in their nomination papers, but the clock is ticking.

People also can still pick up nomination papers at this point, but they will certainly have to hustle to collect signatures. Candidates running for at-large seats on the City Council or School Committee need to obtain 300 certified signatures, while those running for district council seats need 100 signatures.

History has shown that it's not unusual for people to take out nomination papers and then never make it onto the ballot.

Some people can't get the required number of signatures or they simply lose interest in running for office. And, there are those who simply like to pull papers for the heck of it.

The municipal ballot won't actually be formally set until May 28. That is the last day candidates who have qualified for the ballot can withdraw if they so desire.

But once people make it on to the ballot, seldom, if ever, does anyone withdraw.

What is perhaps most eye-catching so far is that 14 people have taken out nomination papers for the six elected School Committee seats.

They are: Tracy O'Connell Novick (incumbent), John F. Monfredo (incumbent), Cotey J. Collins, Jack L. Foley (incumbent), Brian A. O'Connell (incumbent), Carlos C. Perez, William F. Holmes, Hilda Ramirez (incumbent), Molly O. McCullough, Dianna L. Biancheria (incumbent), Robert J. Cohane, Nicola J. D'Andrea, Jeremy D. Balcom and Michael C. Baker.

Out of that group, only Mr. Monfredo has so far qualified for the School Committee ballot, according to city election officials.

Thirteen or more candidates are needed to trigger a preliminary election for School Committee and look for more to qualify in the coming days.

One would be hard-pressed to recall when more than 12 people last ran for School Committee in a given year, thus necessitating a preliminary election for that contest. It's been that long.

But public safety issues that have arisen at some of the high schools of late probably have a lot to do with the number of candidates running for School Committee this year.

Equally eye-catching is the fact that 20 people have taken out nomination papers for the six at-large seats on the City Council.

Not only are all six at-large incumbents seeking re-election, but another City Council incumbent, District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri, has decided to forgo seeking re-election as a district councilor and instead will seek an at-large seat.

Those who have taken out nomination papers for the at-large race are: Khrystian E. King, William S. Coleman III, Linda Parham, Michael T. Gaffney (incumbent), Christina L. Zlody, Kate Toomey (incumbent), Joseph M. Petty (incumbent), Frederick C. Rushton (incumbent), Juan A. Gomez, Konstantina B. Lukes (incumbent), Ronald L. O'Clair, Carmen L. Carmona, Morris A. Bergman (incumbent), Todd W. Williams, Mr. Palmieri, George A. Fox, Thomas E. Lecuyer, Matthew Wally, Paul B. Cooney and Robert Sargent.

Out of that group, eight had qualified for the at-large ballot as of noon on Friday. They are: Mr. King, Mr. Coleman, Ms. Parham, Mr. Gaffney, Ms. Zlody, Mrs. Lukes, Mr. Palmieri and Mr. Wally.

Thirteen or more candidates are needed to trigger a preliminary election in the at-large race.

In the five district City Council seats, those who have taken out papers for District 1 are Tony J. Economou (incumbent) and Cindy Nguyen. Both have already qualified for the ballot.

For the District 2 seat being vacated by Mr. Palmieri, four people have taken out papers: Jennithan Cortes, Larry R. Shelter, Ana Sequera and Candy Mero-Carlson, but none had qualified for the ballot by mid-day Friday.

Meanwhile, three people have taken out papers for the District 4 seat: Sarai Rivera (incumbent), Jacqueline G. Kostas and Luis Portillo. So far, only Ms. Kostas has made it on to the ballot.

As of now, incumbents George J. Russell (District 3) and Gary Rosen (District 5) are not facing any challengers. No one else has taken out nomination papers to run for those seats so far.

So now we wait until May 19 to see who will be in and who will be out.

Regardless, the political landscape is indeed changing in Worcester.

The local communities of color are looking to have a greater voice in what happens in the city government and public schools, and they have responded with more than a dozen people pulling nomination papers for either City Council or School Committee.

That is unprecedented in Worcester.

Equally interesting is the number of new faces and potential first-time candidates looking to bring new blood and a new perspective to the city government.

If they all follow through and make it on to the ballot, this fall's municipal election may be anything but business as usual.

Contact Kotsopoulos at Follow him on Twitter @NCKotsopoulos
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Kotsopoulos, Nick
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 3, 2015
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