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Candidates For D.C.'s Special Election Struggle To Get Signatures

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Elissa Silverman gathers signatures to qualify for the ballot for D.C.'s special election.
Patrick Madden
Elissa Silverman gathers signatures to qualify for the ballot for D.C.'s special election.

It's Sunday afternoon at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. The place is packed. Vendors are lined up and down the street selling heirloom vegetables, pasture-free eggs, and grass-raised beef — there's even a stand for urban composting.

But what D.C. Council hopeful Elissa Silverman cannot find, at least temporarily, are registered D.C. voters to sign her petition sheet.

She and nearly 20 other candidates have filed paperwork to run in the District's special election in April.

It sounds easy — gather 3,000 valid signatures of registered D.C. voters to qualify for the ballot. But meeting that threshold is anything but easy.

Silverman says it's especially difficult in the winter.

She and other candidates often pick spots where residents tend to gather, such as farmers markets. Another candidate, Pat Mara, tweeted he was at the Redskins game gathering signatures.

But overall, it gets harder for candidates as the temperatures drop.

"In the summer, there are just more opportunities," says Silverman. "Today is a beautiful day, but we can contrast that with last Saturday when it was freezing and windy, and might have even been snowy."

Chuck Thies, a political commentator and consultant, says he expects only about half of the 16 or so candidates in the race to make the cut.

"A lot of people are much more hopeful the day they pick signatures than a week after they have been out on the streets trying to collect them," he says.

And Thies also says a campaign's ability to gather signatures is important for other reasons, too.

"Collecting signatures isn't just something you do to get on the ballot," he says. "Collecting signatures is also something you do to demonstrate political muscle and the ability to organize."

Back at the farmer's market, Silverman's hard work pays off as she finds a D.C. voter.

"Hi, I'm Elissa..."

And for all the candidates running, the clock is ticking. The signatures must be turned by Jan. 23.

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