Candidates try to stand out

Mayoral candidate Bill Walczak dressed up for Boston’s gay pride parade.
Walczak campaign
Mayoral candidate Bill Walczak dressed up for Boston’s gay pride parade.

Bill Walczak donned a bowtie-and-cummerbund tuxedo — accented with a rainbow sash — to march in the gay pride parade.

City Councilor Michael P. Ross stayed awake for 25 hours as part of a marathon campaign kickoff, serving lunch from a food truck near South Station by day and riding in a cop car in Mattapan by night.

And Charles L. Clemons Jr. lingered at the Mattapan Square Mobil and other filling stations to make an unorthodox connection to voters. “I’m pumping people’s gas,” Clemons said, flashing his high-wattage smile.


Forget relying on yard signs and bumper stickers. When you’re one of a dozen people running for mayor, extreme measures must be taken to capture attention.

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“You try and strike gold. Everybody is trying to do [Bill] Clinton playing the saxophone on ‘Arsenio Hall,’ ” said John M. Tobin Jr., a former city councilor. “You have to differentiate yourself, but there’s a fine line. You want to do something that raises your profile but you can’t come across as a clown.”

Political graveyards are littered with campaign stunts gone awry. Think Michael S. Dukakis in the tank. Or remember “Floon,” the amalgamation of Michael F. Flaherty and Sam Yoon, who joined forces — and merged their names — in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mayor Thomas M. Menino?

This year, no candidates have formed a team, but catch phrases abound. “Mondays with Marty” sounds sort of like Mitch Albom’s best-selling memoir “Tuesdays with Morrie.” Except “Mondays with Marty” is a series of town hall meetings with mayoral candidate Martin J. Walsh, a state representative.

“Felix in the Field” is the tagline used by City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo when his mayoral campaign catalogs how many door knocks were made by canvassers.


Dispatches from former state representative Charlotte Golar Richie include a regular feature: “Where is Charlotte this week?” Hear echoes of “Where’s Waldo?” With 12 candidates, there’s no other option.

These mayoral hopefuls are not just running for office. They are actually running. John Barros went jogging with the running club Dorchester Swarm. So did Ross. And City Councilor John R. Connolly.

But that’s not Connolly’s only trick. He plans to stockpile Milk-Bone biscuits and hit dog parks. The campaign has also put the candidate on a bike several times this summer, riding with cycling enthusiasts in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Allston-Brighton. One day in June, it was no gimmick: Connolly’s car broke down, so he hopped on a Hubway bicycle.

“Guess who is taking shared bike to next event. This guy!” Connolly wrote on Twitter, where he posted a photograph of his ride. “Yes, I keep my helmet in my crappy car.”

Connolly’s phonetic competition — Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley — has courted a very different segment of the electorate.


“It’s National Donut Day,” Conley wrote on Twitter in June. “Folks, what’s your favorite donut?”

The mayoral campaign of City Councilor Rob Consalvo has employed a multipronged approach to gain notice. Recently, Consalvo’s campaign has been pushing lists, such as “14 ways you know you’re running for mayor” and “9 Innovative Ideas to Make Boston Safer.” The tactic is an Internet phenomenon known as “listicles.”

“It’s a real thing,” said Consalvo’s spokesman, Kevin Franck. “You can Google it.”

The last two weekends, Consalvo conducted his own Sunday press conferences on City Hall Plaza. He may have learned the trick from his father, who worked in the administration of former mayor Raymond L. Flynn, who held press conferences on weekends when news was scarce, often winning front-page headlines in Monday’s paper.

Do the weekend press conferences, dog biscuits, or catch phrases actually win votes? How did drivers react when a mayoral candidate appeared to pump their gas?

“They loved it,” said Stacey Thomas, whose family owns Mattapan Square Mobil. “The reception was very good.”

In an interview, Ross said his 25-hour campaign kickoff demonstrated he possesses the energy and excitement to keep Boston moving forward. His campaign is trying to connect with people where they are: home, work, restaurants, parks, social media.

“I’m running for mayor for the entire city,” Ross said. “To do that, I’m going to have to be creative in how I outreach.”

And Walczak’s tuxedo for the gay pride parade? Other candidates wore khaki pants and brightly colored golf shirts, or rolled up the long sleeves of their button-down shirts. But Walczak made a statement when he pulled his tuxedo out of the closet. He added the rainbow sash, at his wife’s suggestion, in a nod to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

“Bill wanted to show a special appreciation for the LGBT community,” said spokesman Wyatt Ronan, noting that Walczak embraced domestic partnership rights in 1996 at Codman Square Health Center, which he helped found. “He’s always been ahead of the times as far as LGBT rights are concerned.”

Andrew Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.