At-Large Hopefuls Hit Home Stretch

In California, folks can't make up their mind whether they want to vote or not. At issue - along with child actors, bodybuilders, and adult film stars - is whether or not all the state's voters are voting under the same conditions. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, famous around these parts for the scolding Speaker Tom Finneran gave them at last year's Adams Corner rally, ruled that six counties were playing under unfair rules because their punchcard ballots weren't up to snuff.

In Boston, City Hall thinks it has solved that problem; new optimal scanner technology will greet voters at the polls this year. Any voters with last-minute questions before next Tuesday's preliminary election should call the city's Election Department at 617-635-4635.

Once the technique is down, then it's decision time. While the District Four race has garnered much of the attention, the at-large field is ripe with intrigue and notable contenders. It may not be Californian in its size or wackiness, but voters will have to pick between 14 choices - including a professional clown, a sitting City Council president with aspirations for mayoralty, the daughter of a former mayor, and at least one opponent of Darwinism.

Several candidates attended the Epiphany School forum Tuesday, each delivering a 10-minute stump speech. It was the campaign's first event hosting all the candidates, and the first chance many had to get out their message. Dorchester state Rep. Martin Walsh was also on hand, his endorsements doled out to Councillors-at-Large Felix Arroyo and Steve Murphy, and contender Matt O'Malley.

Voters select up to four candidates, with the top eight vote-getters surviving to battle in the November 4 final election. Below, the Reporter offers a brief look at each candidate for city councillor-at-large, in reverse order of how they appear on the ballot.

Althea Garrison

Dorchester woman who estimates she's run for elective office 12 times … Self-labeled "black conservative," Jerome St. resident lists extensive history of community activism as chief qualification.

Arthur "Lucky" Craffey

Calling Craffey "a clown" is no insult; 65 year-old works the balloon animal circuit … Jamaica Plain man a proponent of neighborhood schools, very anti-busing.

Matt O'Malley

Plucky 23-year-old whose hustle and campaign organization have helped him earn status as front runner among the dark horses … Former Peggy Davis-Mullen aide says he has plans for public safety, education, and affordable housing.

Felix D. Arroyo

Made headlines last year when he became city's first Latino city councillor, taking office after Mickey Roache left for Register of Deeds post … Quickly aligned with liberal wing of Council … Seen as vulnerable this election, in part because of shortened term … Drew attention for fasting to protest second Gulf War … Puerto Rican native and Hyde Park resident boasts extensive experience in education, including stint as school committee chair.

Michael F. Flaherty

City Council president with designs on the big job … Has been accused by liberal wing of heavy-handed gavel wielding and, recently, of "institutional racism" … South Boston man with strong citywide organization … Looking for third term as at-large councillor, he's the race's leading fundraiser.

Maura A. Hennigan

Eleven-term councillor with record of loyal opposition to Mayor Menino on many issues … Jamaica Plain resident frequently sides with Council liberals … Last week, Turner, a frequent ally urged voters not to check Hennigan's name on the ballot, but instead give their votes to Arroyo ... Staunch proponent of "financial literacy," closer attention to pilot schools, and increased revenue channeled to housing.

Jacquelyn Payne-Thompson

Public school teacher and former candidate for governor's council … 52-year-old Roxbury native calls for smaller class sizes and more cooperation from businesses helping provide jobs for youths … Said Tuesday, "I really feel that the good ol' boys network needs to go."

Edward Puglielli

Conservative, 32-year-old accountant from East Boston, bills himself as pro-life and pro-gun … Touts independence, "no ties to City Hall" … Calls for limited budget … Promises strong business sense.

Patricia H. White

Scion of a Boston political dynasty whose brightest light is former Mayor Kevin White … 33-year-old former political director of state Democratic party … Father's legacy helped secure fundraising and publicity advantage over rest of challenger field … Advocates lowering cost of living in city.

Stephen J. Murphy

Four-term at-large councillor with strong ties to labor … 46-year-old Hyde Park resident told forum attendees Tuesday night, "I live this job," called councillors "the guardians … of the quality of life in the neighborhood."

Roy Owens

Promises to "restore traditional family values," advocating for teaching of creationism and Biblical teaching in public schools … Dorchester man opposes treatment of Halloween as an official holiday.

Laura Garza

Sewing machine operator and labor activist, Socialist Workers candidate championing workers rights … 44-year-old East Boston woman vocal on immigrant rights, supportive of a "massive public works program," and "full civil and human rights for gays and lesbians"

Phyllis Igoe

Roslindale woman did not attend forum and did not immediately answer phone calls.

Joseph Anthony Ureneck

Self-described "reformed liberal" earns living as Chinese language translator … Dorchester native (Marlowe St.) … Says he wants improved schools and broader budgetary powers for the Council … Criticizes present Council for being "a talking shop."