By Alana Seldon SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The Syracuse Mayoral race has gained traction, but one candidate has found a way around the typical ballot.
Democratic Mayoral candidate, Raymond Blackwell was booted from the democratic primary last week after a Board of Elections hearing. According to the Board, the 28-year-old did not submit enough valid petition signatures or raise enough money – they ruled Blackwell was ineligible for the primary in September.
The Board says many of his more than 1,000 signatures came from outside of Syracuse.
Blackwell believes the purpose of the signatures is to make sure you engage some people when wanting to be a public servant, but “a combination of different entities are missing the point and the purpose in why you get the signatures.” He says elections standards are set so high that people are set up to fail.
“I don’t believe it’s fair at all, it really marginalizes genuine people, people who really want to just get involved,” he says. “You shouldn’t need a half a million dollars to get involved, you shouldn’t need 200 committee members to get 1,000 signatures for you. You should be able to show that you’ve been doing work in the community and that you’re wiling to be a conciliator and someone willing to compromise.”
While the candidate has no prior history in politics, Blackwell believes terms like “experience” are used as barriers to exclude people.
He says what Syracuse really needs is a leader, someone with a vision and one who is good with people. “There’s something more,” he explains. “There is a factor beyond just experience and government, or being an elected official that you need in order to be successful and that’s what I know I have.”
After the Board’s ruling, Blackwell had the chance to go to court and appeal the decision, but he says he didn’t think that was the right option.
“It’s kind of like going to the enemy to ask for mercy,” he said jokingly.
Despite a lack of support from the Democratic Committee for his campaign and the Board’s ruling, Blackwell isn’t discouraged – he plans to move forward. “I decided to continue to run as a write-in and if a door closes on you, you gotta find a window and I believe that’s what I’m gonna do,” he says.
His being from the Syracuse community, seeing the good, bad and ugly of the city and his personal journey are what he says motivated him to run for office.
A few months ago, in an effort to be transparent with voters, Blackwell shared with a crowd of voters that he was connected to drugs, carrying guns and assaulting people in his past. He says his purpose in doing this was to connect with people on an emotional level because the Mayor of the city has to be someone who can inspire people.
Reflecting on his mother being on welfare and father being incarcerated while he was growing up, Blackwell says, he’s not ashamed.
“We can’t just have the usual, you gotta have someone who can touch people, someone who can relate to people,” he says. “I know I can identify with the lowliest of the low, I know I can identify with people who are struggling, people who are about to lose their home or car and not just the privileged few that society is catering to right now.”
Blackwell is inspired by those who believe in him, such as teens at the Justice Center, where he volunteers. He says, “I can not quit. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I even realized that I was and I hope that inspires other people.”
Although confident about his campaign, if not elected as Syracuse’s next Mayor, Blackwell says he plans to run for other offices in the future and remain active, volunteering and serving his city.