Friday, November 4, 2016

Memories of Politics

Monday, November 7th, will be the 44th anniversary of my first election to the Massachusetts Senate in 1972. I had graduated from U-Mass in June of '72 with a bachelors in government, but I had started running the day after the 1970 election. The district had about 7k Republicans, 30k Democrats, and perhaps 40k who were registered independent but tended to vote Democrat. The last Republican to be elected to the seat was in 1938--in a disputed, close election. This was the year McGovern swept Massachusetts and no where else. I was single and 26, having served four in the Corps. I lived at home and was making $38 a week as a PT security guard. The incumbent, Sen, Joe Ward was considered the most powerful politician to ever come out of northern Worcester County, and best debater in the senate. ​He was a five-term incumbent, unopposed in the last three elections. He had run for governor in 1960, was Secretary of State then and a state rep before that. He was a full-time successful lawyer, part time senator. The job paid $12k. He spent about $20k I spent $9k on political stuff plus another $3k on catering for events. I outworked him, running on three issues: government reform, fighting spending and tax increases and being a full time senator. The turning point was when I got him angry in a debate and he called me a "snide, slimy young man" on TV, refusing to shake hands. Few were watching the Gardner cable channel, but after the papers reported o it, all the cable channels replayed it and thousands watched. Cable was a small local thing then, no CNN or Fox. The best prediction I heard election night was from a local radio station which allowed I had run a good campaign and would "probably lose only two to one." Then it went off the air. As the returns came in at one point I was 2,000 down. Then Lunenburg, where I lived, gave me a 1,000 vote plurality, and the town (really small city) of Clinton, a Democrat stronghold, where I shook 6k hands election day, gave me a 54 vote win. The next to last town, Westminister, came in at 4:30 am and I had carried it by 300, leaving me 147 votes behind. We waited until 6:30 am for the last town, Shirley to come in. All paper ballots in those days. I carried it by 156 votes, putting me ahead for the first time with a 9 vote lead. Thankfully, I come out of the recount early in December126 votes up, or the Senate would have appointed a committee which would have tossed a dozen of my votes on technicalities and seated Ward. I was reelected in '74 by 10k votes, carrying every city ad town including the ward my opponent represented on the city council. In '76 I was nominated by both parties, winning the Democratic primary by 150 votes on write ins against a Democrat write in candidate. I was unopposed in 1978 and in 1980 defeated the Democrat by about 75% to 25% carrying every precinct including his home town of Gardner where I only won 2.5 to one. In 1982, fed up, I chose not to run for reelection, retiring undefeated. While a Senator I served another 6 years in the USMCR and earned a masters in history at night. I still follow politics closely, but am a recovering politician, cured of running. ~Bob 

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