Graham Keeps Running Despite Loss

State Rep. Saundra Graham (D-Cambridge) stood on the State House steps yesterday and refused to limp or quack like the loser of a Democratic primary.

Instead, she kicked off a write-in/sticker campaign against Cambridge truant officer Alvin P. Thompson, who unexpectedly beat her to the nomination two weeks ago.

"I plan to continue to fight...because the fact is, I am the most qualified, experienced, and effective candidate in this race," Graham told about 40 supporters yesterday on the steps of the State House. Thompson watched from across the street with two campaign workers.

"I lost my primary election 15 days ago because I didn't hit the streets," Graham said, noting that she had spent the summer working to pass a bill requiring child care in new developments. "I made the terrible mistake of letting my community drift apart."

Graham's district, the 28th Middlesex, includes the Riverside and Cambridgeport neighborhoods, Central Square, parts of MIT, Adams, Dunster, Leverett and Mather Houses, Peabody Terrace and the freshman Union dorms.

The candidate said she would be telling voters, "don't punch Thompson, stick Graham," on November 8th. Holding up a Cambridge computer-card ballot, she demonstrated how to put a sticker with her name and address in the appropriate place on the ballot's paper wrapper.

Graham also challenged Thompson to debate, noting that he had refused to do so in the past. Thompson did not answer an invitation to debate Graham before the primary.

Now, Graham said she plans to go out on the streets for support. "I'm out day and night knocking on doors, talking to Cambridge people. My defeat has brought my supporters everywhere back together," she said.

Campaign volunteers will hand out stickers door-to-door in the next few weeks, and will distribute them again outside the polls on election day, Graham said. Her campaign manager, Michael Albano, is the son of State Sen. Salvatore Albano (D-Somerville), who won a sticker campaign in 1984. His staff members have since advised other campaigns on write-in efforts.

Graham lost the nomination to Thompson by 49 votes in an election marked by turnouts under 20 percent in the district. The incumbent waged a low-key campaign, distributing leaflets once and canvassing the district with only a handful of supporters.

In a reference to negative publicity about drug charges against her two sons, Graham told the supporters, "I am also a mother and I will stick by my family just as any mother would."

Pamela Thomure, a supporter who managed Graham's first campaign in 1971, said Graham was "shocked" after losing the September 15th primary to Thompson, but was now in "very high gear."

Following Graham's announcement, Thompson told reporters he had already "been through the democratic process and... been nominated." Asked about Graham's challenge to a debate he said, "We went door-to-door. That's where the debate is."

Thompson challenged Graham for her City Council seat twice before during the past decade. Graham blames his victory on help from the real estate industry, which opposes her stands on rent control and her child care linkage bill.

But others have noted that the incumbent campaigned very little and did not challenge bad publicity about her family. She also alienated some of her liberal supporters by voting to let MIT build a 27-acre development in return for guarantees of low-income housing.

She apparently backed the zoning package that let construction begin in return for a provision requiring MIT's contractor, Forest City Development, to build 400 new apartments, 150 of them subsidized.

Lester P. Lee, Jr., a former City Council candidate now advising Thompson on his campaign, said Thompson would accept a challenge from a Republican candidate, but since Thompson had won the Democratic Primary there was no reason to debate Graham. No Republicans ran for the seat in the primary, and none have emerged in the past two weeks.

Lee, the president of the Cambridge Community Center, campaigned as an alternative to Graham in last November's Council campaign.

Thompson said it "was not a fluke" that he won, but was due to "hard work." Lee added, "I would assume that a low turnout would favor an incumbent." Thompson said the main issue of the campaign was "accessibility and accountability. We've been here every day."

Thompson said he would announce further campaign plans next week.