Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lesser-known U.S. Senate hopefuls still collecting signatures

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This story was written for the MetroWest Daily News and was published on 10/25/09. The printed version may be different from this version I submitted. The story was not published to the paper's website.

Photos by Lindsey Ann Palatino - Photojournalism Graduate Student at Boston University

WORCESTER - Standing in the Friday evening chill of a Shaws supermarket parking lot, clip board in hand, William S. Coleman, dressed in suit and tie, approaches a passing shopper.

As he explains he needs signatures to qualify as a candidate for January's special U.S. Senate election, the elderly woman pushing a cart listens politely. “I know your name," she says. "You run all the time.”

Coleman, 55, ran unsuccessfully for Worcester mayor seven times since 1991.
He laughed it off and said it’s not easy work to get signatures. Coleman said one of the best places to get signatures is at a grocery store but during a 30-minute time period, Coleman asked nearly 25 people to sign his petition and received just eight signatures. Most passersby claimed they were not registered to vote.

Such are the travails of some 50 Massachusetts residents who have picked up official nominating papers from the secretary of state's office to pull papers to run in the special election Edward M. Kennedy seat.

Few of these would-be candidates think they have a chance at filling that seat. Some say they are running to show it can be done. Others have decided since that they can't do it.

“I doubt I will be successful but I want to make an impression,” says Morris Chung, a 38-year-old engineer from Worcester. “I want to set an example to be involved.”
What follows are a look at some other of the independent candidates who are running.


A major hurdle for many, who desire to get their name on the ballot, is the lack of name recognition. Getting enough signatures to qualify is no easy task for lesser known candidates.

Coleman needs 10,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot. He said he hopes to collect at least 20,000; many signatures could be ruled invalid due to illegible handwriting or other issues.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Coleman attended Catholic schools and enjoyed volunteer work from a young age. He loved the tv show Leave It To Beaver, wanting to be Beaver’s, “first black friend,” and he wanted to marry Jackie Kennedy.

Growing up in a diverse neighborhood, Coleman learned seven languages including Greek, Albanian, Arabic and Lithuanian. Detecting the accent of a Greek woman outside of the Shaws, he switched over to her native language. Unfortunately, she was not a registered voter.

Coleman says he served as an aide for his hero, the first African American elected United States Senator, Edward Brooke, in 1976. He later completed a degree from Worcester State College.

Honoring his mentor, Coleman asked shoppers outside of the supermarket to sign a giant homemade birthday card for Sen. Brooke, who will turn 90 on Monday.

Driving an old blue Buick Le Sabre with wires hanging from the inside of the driver’s door, the back seat stuffed with old newspapers and petition papers, he goes from schools, homeless shelters, prison transition units and alternative learning centers to teach courses.

Education is one of the most important issues for Coleman. He works for the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. He said he knew long ago that his, “life was committed to teaching and community service.”

In his infrequent spare time, Coleman paints American flags on chain link fences throughout the country.

Coleman’s favorite book is Dante’s Inferno, which he is re-reading. He said his favorite passage says that, “the most torturous part of hell is reserved for those who remain complacent.”


Morris Chung, 38, of Worcester, is not a seasoned campaigner like Coleman. He is taking his first stab at running for public office by pulling papers to run for U.S. Senate.

Chung said he plans to start collecting signatures around Nov. 1. Independent candidates have until Nov. 24 to submit signatures.

Chung grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. Chung’s hero is his father, a South Korean immigrant, who owned a small grocery store. He was an only child and a “certified geek.”

Instead of, "following his heart,” and attending the Air Force Academy, his family convinced him to stay in New York. He attended Columbia University earning a degree in engineering.

Chung moved to Massachusetts in 1993. He worked in the science industry and earned an MBA from Northeastern.

Seeing himself as an example of what it means to be American, Chung has worked from the bottom of a company all the way “upstairs.” He was laid off from his first job after moving to the state. “I am constantly reinventing myself,” Chung said.


Taped to the door of a small internal medicine practice in Foxboro, near Gillette Stadium, is a simple black and white sign printed on standard computer paper that reads, “John J. Adams, M.D. for U.S. Senate.”

Adams, 54, said he and his wife, Anne, have been collecting signatures outside of stores and the parking lot of the stadium before Patriots games. He has about 4,000 signatures.

A graduate of Boston University Medical School, Adams said, “Health care should be a right, not a privilege.” As a child growing up in Boston public housing Adams suffered from asthma that wasn't properly treated because his family had insufficient health coverage.

At the age of 8, Adams remembers watching buses lined up in the projects ready to go to Washington, D.C. He was too young to go. Since then, “I have had a trip to Washington in my heart,” he said.
Joseph Baldino, 42, and Everett Wells, 63, decided it was not realistic to try after pulling Senate papers.

Baldino attended Worcester Vocational School, worked in the printing industry and then he joined the United States Army, serving stateside from 1986 to 1990. He nearly joined the Army again to serve in Iraq but he said his teenage daughter did not want him to go.

Baldino is an independent and works full time as a maintenance mechanic for a bottle and can recycling company.

“I am a blue collar man,” he said. “What is it about a button, a banner, a commercial, that’s going to make you any better because you have money to do all this than the person that’s out their busting his butt every single day.”

Frustrated that campaigns are so reliant on money, he decided he could not realistically run for office.

“They call Teddy the lion, but I will pounce on you like a cougar,” said Baldino, who said it is a shame he can’t fight for the real people of Massachusetts on Capitol Hill because he doesn’t have the means.

Baldino said it only makes sense that an average, hard-working citizen, like himself, should represent fellow citizens because he understands where they are coming from and what they need.

Everett Wells, a Brockton Republican, was the last to pull Senate papers as of October 8. Wells originally thought he needed signatures from registered voters but discovered he could only collect Republican signatures and saw the task as too daunting given the smaller population of Republicans in Massachusetts. He wrote an email to the GOP after pulling papers but he said it went unanswered.

Wells’ deadline has passed. Democrats and Republicans had to submit their signatures by October 20.

Wells, who is retired from a long career as a painter, plans to register as an independent in the future.

Chung, addressing everyone who pulled U.S. Senate papers, said that he is sorry that Kennedy has passed away but, “that unlocks Massachusetts from a political perspective and it’s a great, great opportunity for people in politics who truly want to serve the public. This is their chance.”

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