...And Larry DiCara Passes the First Test
Larry DiCara, Harvard '71, guessed exactly where he would finish in last, week's City Council primary before returns had come in from a fifth of the wards. While his Campaign manager, Bill Guenther '72, scribbled results on tallysheets. DiCara told a well-wisher that he would finish between 12th and 15th, safely above the cutoff point of 18th. "It all depends on the black community," he added thoughtfully.
DiCara did well in all parts of Boston. What put him over, however, was a strong showing in Dorchester, his home grounds, and a sixth-place finish among the Italians of East Boston. He finished 12th overall, with 24,151 votes--about half the number which the number-one votegetter pulled in. And what had delivered those votes was not money--he spent only about $6000 on the primary campaign--or publicity--the mayoralty election had over-shadowed the Council race, and DiCara, like most of the other new candidates, had received little notice from the Boston papers. He had gotten this for on the strength of his organization and the contacts he had made over a 22-year lifetime of meeting people, remembering names, and doing favors.
Now it was Larry's first real election night party--the first time in a life of anticipation when it had been his name on the ballot, his career at stake, his friends and workers gathered to watch the numbers come trickling in. DiCara was having the time of his life--as he clearly had had during the entire campaign. Around him were the key people in his all-volunteer campaign staff: his sister, Jenny DiCara. Guenther, his campaign manager, crouched over the phone barking figures and winking at faces in the crowd with some of Larry's own elan. Chip Moore, another Harvard student who worked full time during the summer, his area leaders, his pollworkers, his family and neighbors.
The atmosphere was somewhere between the Democratic National Committee and the American Legion Boys' State. The crowd was young, almost all high school and college students. But the atmosphere owed more to Honey Fitz and James Michael Curley than to Gene McCarthy and the Peace and Freedom Party: Larry DiCara is not the new politics. He is a new face who has learned to practice the old politics very, very well.
For each of the volunteers who have made this possible DiCara has a smile and a personal greeting. "Sammy," he said to one newcomer, an old classmate from Boston Latin School. "How about this?" He winked at the crowd. "All the guys we've been looking for all summer show up for the free beer." The crowd laughed and Sammy smiled sheepissly. "Hi, I'm Larry DiCara," he said, extending his hand to another. "I don't believe I know your name."
"I'm Ken..." the boy began, but before he could finish DiCara was way ahead of him.
"Ken, how are you?" He had remembered. "How are things on Molton Street? How's your brother? Let's see--you were working for us in the Sixteenth Precinct, right? How'd we do over there?"
"I don't know yet, Larry, I think we did okay."
"Yeah, well, listen. I appreciate your coming out there. You know, just the fact that there's a poll worker increases the vote by about one-third."
DiCara was the only pro on his team. The rest were enthusiastic amateurs, and even campaign manager Guenther had to be initiated into the arcana of Boston politics. But the volunteers had done well by him, and as the returns trickled in to demonstrate that he had not calculated wrong. DiCara became more and more pleased.
"We lost Southie, Larry," a kid called to him.
DiCara was plainly not surprised that the Irish of South Boston have not turned out in force for him. "Any area where you have a real heavy like Moakley"--John Moakley, the congressman who lost to Louise Day Hicks last year, had led the ballotting all night in his first try for City Council--"you're not going to do very well. It's the same with the black areas. We could have rung every doorbell and we still wouldn't have done any better than we would have just by doing the subway stations. That's why you have to play to your strength."
DiCara's strengths are these: he is young, he is Italian, he is a good public speaker, he has hundreds of contacts with the people he grew up with and the people in Boston politics, he went to Harvard. "A FRESH FACE IN A TIRED CROWD," his posters say. He has worked hard on this campaign, issuing more position papers than any other Council Candidate, thereby gaining the Globe's endorsement. He has called for changes in the city tax structure to end the advantages given to business at the expense of homeowners under the property tax law and to gain revenue by taxing commuters who work in Boston but pay taxes outside it. He has proposed that the City Council re-instate the annual walking tour--once required by law--in which the Councillors walk the boundaries of the city and talk to the voters. Housing rehabilitation, cleaner streets, crime prevention, drug counselling, medical care, veterans' affairs, rapid transit--the position papers are not radical, new, or original. They are well-researched and liberal. In a city where one candidate for mayor ran on the platform of "You know where I stand," it is a different approach. DiCara has been at pains to make clear that he is fit for the job of City Councillor, both by his background and because he went to Harvard.
"The Harvard thing has been a plus straight down the line for us," Guenther explained. "Everyone says, 'Oh, yeah, he's the well-educated candidate." DiCara can pull it off because no one would ever think of him as a candidate from Harvard. The voters of Boston can recognize him on sight as one of them: short, stocky, hook-nosed, balding, he resembles not at all the pipe-smoking, tweedy grandees like McGeorge Bundy who have tried for City Council with such disastrous results. Added to his appearance, there are his credentials: Robert F. Kennedy Action Corps, Cedar Grove Civic Association, Boston Junior Chamber of Commerce, Catholic Youth Organization, Knights of Columbus, St. Gregory's Holy Name Society--it is an awesome list for one so young. DiCara has put in years. of this type of service, and now he is seeking the payoff.
The payoff may yet elude him. Despite his strong showing in the primary, he faces an uphill fight to try to grab one of the nine seats on the council. There will be 18 names on the ballot in November. Six of them will be incumbents, and all of these finished in the top nine in the primary: men like Chris Iannella, Frederick Langone, Dapper O'Neill, who have been running for office for years. It seems unlikely that any of them will stumble before November; no one in Boston is very happy with the City Council, but no one is very angry at it either, John Moakley, although not an incumbent, is practically a shoo-in. DiCara, with $1500 remaining in his campaign chest, must fight the other eleven for one of the two remaining spots on the ballot.
"The ideal situation from our point of view would be 17 old hacks and Larry," Guenther said before the returns were counted. "So we would like to see the other young newcomers get knocked out."
It didn't happen. Running right behind DiCara was John A. Lynch, a 25-year-old liberal who made his name as an organizer of the Little City Hall program. Lynch, a young lawyer, has made a name for himself as the young liberal on the ticket, and DiCara's people feel a little nervous about him. Lynch has the endorsement of the Citizens for Participation Politics, and the Massachusetts Legislative Council on Older Americans and DiCara--already endorsed by the Americans for Democratic Action--is angling to get both of these endorsements for the November election. "He's not a good speaker," Guenther said, "but he's well-known."
There are two blacks in the race, Reginald Eaves, administrator in the Mayor's Office of Human Rights, and Royal Bolling, a State Representative from Roxbury. Both ran behind DiCara but could give him trouble in the election.
Despite the odds, DiCara and Guenther are optimistic about November. "The big question is money," Guenther said. "Larry's a terrific speaker. If we can get him on TV and radio--let people see and hear him--then I think we can do it." Guenther calculates they need $15,000 to have a chance. He is searching for funds among the fat cats now, promising them that Larry has a chance and that a new revamped campaign staff will give an even better effort for November; a full-time press aide, more volunteers now that Harvard is in session again.
And Larry DiCara is having the time of his life. If he is elected, he has promised to be a "full-time councilman." And if he loses, so what? He's 22 years old, and there are elections every two years. He can run again. He knew that the party last week was only the first of many DiCara victory parties. Since the age of six, Larry DiCara has been a full-time candidate