MANCHESTER, NH — When Mayor Joyce Craig filed for re-election on Monday, she opted to skip the $100 filing fee and instead submitted 1,140 nominating petitions from residents, a whopping 940 more signatures than she needed.
Craig isn’t the only politician taking that route this election cycle. Victoria Sullivan, who is also running for mayor, filed by petition, as did Brenda Noiseux, running for Ward 7 alderman, and Katie Desrochers, who is running for Alderman at Large. On Tuesday Desrochers filed 140 petitions to get on the ballot. She had 40 more than required.
“The reason I have chosen to do so is because I feel that it has given me an opportunity to connect with voters all throughout the city who support me and are excited about my run,” Desrochers said in a text. “It was a very enjoyable experience to talk to people and feel their energy about supporting my candidacy for alderman at large. My friend, Lisa (Hanel) convinced me last Tuesday to do it this way, and I could not be happier to have done it this way. I got over 140 signatures in five days!”
Desrochers said she thought it would give her “street credibility that people were supporting me” but she said it became “so much more than that because people are really excited that I am running, and I wasn’t anticipating that much energy from others. It’s a great feeling!”
It took her five days to do it.
According to the city website, the city charter requires candidates to either pay filing fees or deliver signatures on nominating petitions as follows: For Mayor the fee is $100 or 200 petitions; Commissioner of Welfare, 150 petitions (no fee is listed); for Alderman, $50 or 100 petitions; School Committee, $25 or 50 petitions; for other offices, no fee is required.
City Clerk Matthew Normand noted that while he couldn’t call it a trend, when it comes to filing by petition, “… we’ve had a few more this cycle for sure.”
Collecting petitions is a campaign strategy, a way to engage the general public and make them aware of city elections. It was the first time that Craig had collected petitions, submitting five times the 200 required to file for the mayoral race, according to Craig campaign staffer McKenzie St. Germain
“The most important part of public service is listening to residents and throughout her entire time in office, Mayor Craig has prioritized talking with residents about their ideas and issues they care about,” said St. Germain. “By spending time in the community, knocking on doors and attending events across the city, it was clear that there is strong support for the work Mayor Craig has done in her first term in office. Collecting nominating petitions was a great way to demonstrate support, and as we collected over 1,140 petitions from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents when only 200 were required, it clearly shows the Queen City is excited to re-elect Mayor Craig for a second term.”
Noiseux ran for Ward 7 alderman two years ago. It was her first go at running for public office so she knew she had to work on getting name recognition and decided going door-to-door was the way to do it. She was the only politician who did it that year.
So far this year, she has turned in 120 petitions but said she needs 10 more. While only 100 petitions are needed to file for an aldermanic race, Noiseux explained that the petitions have to be signed by registered voters and then the petitions must be certified by the city clerk. In the certifying process, sometimes the signers turn out to be non-registered voters.
This year, she said, one “definite challenge” has been going door-to-door in 80 and 90-degree weather. Another challenge is canvassing the same neighborhood that representatives from various presidential campaigns are knocking on, something that can irritate a resident.
Noiseux believes it is important for an alderman to be in touch with her constituency.
“I come from a ward where I’ve never seen my alderman coming around,” she said. The incumbent alderman is William Shea.
She also likes spreading the word that anyone can run for office even if they don’t have financial backing.
“It’s a way to take away money as a barrier,” she explained.
Noiseux, who was in the software technology field and now owns a consulting business called Bittenby Studios, was the sole candidate to collect petitions last election cycle and is happy to see other candidates doing it this year.
“I believe it really does help breathe awareness to city elections,” she said.
Still, she doesn’t think a trend is being set in Manchester.
“There’s a lot of work to do in order to collect 120 petitions,” she said. She has been putting in two or three hours every other day for the past three weeks knocking on doors.
It means visiting about 200 to 250 homes, or twice as many residences to collect the petitions.
“It’s a big commitment so I wouldn’t necessarily see it as a trend even though I would like to see it become a trend,” she said, laughing.