K-School Administrator Faces Senate Veteran
While Harvard hears from a set of local candidates, voters in Melrose are hearing from Harvard.
Kennedy School administrator Richard T. Howe '69 is running for State Senate in his home district, the First Bristol, as the only challenger to 24-year incumbent John F. Parker (R-Taunton).
"I've been doing a lot of door-knocking--train stations in the morning, Bingos at night," said Howe, who describes his district as one where victory comes from "getting out and meeting people." He said Parker has been doing the same--"attending banquets, retirement parties, ribbon-cuttings, et cetera."
Parker said most of his dozen consecutive reelections have been unopposed. "I work like hell at the job because I happen to be a Republican in a Democratic area," he said, adding that such dedication had won respect from local members of the state's majority party.
However, Howe said his party affiliation has been valuable--for example, in garnering endorsements from Governor Michael S. Dukakis and Congressman Barney Frank. He also said that "a surprising percentage of people don't know who their state senator is"--let alone his party.
He noted that Parker's campaign literature does not mention that he is a Republican. Howe said he plans to distribute 25,000 of his own leaflets--a respectable number for a Congressional bid in a far larger area.
Meanwhile, Parker said he has not changed his election-year schedule because of the novelty of opposition. "He runs the campaign basically out of his own head," legislative aide John Wagner said of Parker. "I don't know if it's campaigning or not, but he's very active in the district."
Wagner said the state senator is "from the old-fashioned school" of local person-to-person politics, and that he attended more than 250 community events last year. "He hasn't changed his conduct in any way--he's a real throwback kind of guy," said Wagner.
Parker described his message as "Here I am and this is who I am--I'm your next-door neighbor, you've known me all your life, you'll just have to measure me against whoever the other fellow is."
Howe said he hopes to work towards reform of the State Senate rules, which now give decisive power to Senate President William Bulger (D-South Boston). Bulger recently quipped that he values the eight Senate Republicans as an opposition force that helps him keep his 32 Democrats "in line." Many liberals in the body say that Bulger effectively prevents debate on many issues.
Unlike State Sen. George Bachrach, whose decision to confront Bulger directly lost him a committee chairmanship, Howe said he would try to work through a coalition with other Senate liberals. "If [Bachrach] expected to stay in the Senate he would have shown a more consensus-building approach," Howe commented.
On the referendum questions, the candidates agree only on Question 4, which would impose deadlines and quotas for hazardous waste cleanup on the Department of Environmental Quality Engineering.