State Senator Michael J. Barrett '70 (D. Middlesex and Suffolk) announced yesterday that he is "very close" to beginning a formal campaign for the 1994 Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts.
This declaration, in the wake of Cambridge City Councillor Alice K. Wolf's surprise Tuesday announcement that she would not seek re-election to the council, has left political observers speculating that Wolf will run for Barrett's senate seat.
And given that current Gov. William F. Weld '66, a Republican, lives three blocks from Barrett in the same North Cambridge neighborhood as Wolf, the announcement makes Cambridge a hotbed of political activity, with local elected officials playing leapfrog in a way that is without recent precedent.
Barrett said his niece, Heather M. Leslie '96, will be running the Harvard wing of his campaign. In an interview yesterday, Barrett called for a return to grass-roots political activism and widespread volunteerism, and stressed the importance of Harvard students to his campaign.
Leslie said that although she has not devised a specific campaign strategy, her aim will be to increase awareness on community issues within the student body.
"Before we even begin to talk about Michael Barrett and what Michael Barrett can do as governor of the state, we have to make Harvard students aware of why they should care about what's going on in Mas- sachusetts," she said
Barrett, who is Cambridge's representative in the state house, said he has been considering running for governor for a while. "I've been thinking about it for six or seven months but the decision did not really fall into place for me until two weeks ago," he said. He said he finally decided to run because he finds Weld "out of touch."
Although Barrett's Fayerweather Street home is only three blocks away from Weld's, the senator said he and the governor live in two different worlds. "On my street, people are out of work. People have cancer. I see very hard working families struggling to put it together for themselves," Barrett said.
Barrett said of Weld, "He's a good man, but he's in the wrong job."
Wolf, who denied rumors that she has been offered a position with the National Organization for Women or with the Clinton Administration, said she does not know whether she will run for the state senate. "I will have it under consideration, but I have no plans at the moment," she said.
Barrett said he knows nothing about Wolf's plans "It is a coincidence that Alice should have decided not to run for city council. I don't know what's in her head," he said.
Wolf, likewise, said she had not known that Barrett was interested in running for governor. She said she thought he was interested in running for Congress. Wolf had said that if Rep. Joe Kennedy II ran for governor, she would run for Congress. Kennedy announced in February that he would not run for governor.
But longtime Cambridge politicos are not so easily convinced that Wolf has no immediate plans.
Former mayor Alfred E. Velluccr said that somebody has to replace Barrett on the senate. "Alice Wolf withdrew from the city council race. Maybe she is a candidate to the senate," he said.
Saundra M. Graham, a former Cambridge city councillor and state representative, said that if Barrett ran for governor, Wolf would definitely run for the senate. "I can bet my life on it. The only thing that was stopping her from running was Michael," Graham said.
Graham said that Wolf is a solid contender for the senate seat. "She's a good campaigner, she's got plenty of people working for her, and she's a woman."
Wolf, who attended the Democratic National Convention in New York this summer, was by far the top vote-getter in the 1991 Cambridge City Council election.
During his undergraduate years, Barrett served as editorial chair of The Crimson and was active in the anti-war movement. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1979 and to the state senate in 1987.
Barrett has pushed for lengthening the school year for most of his senate career. He wrote an article on educational reform for the November 1990 issue of The Atlantic Monthly which pushed him into the national spotlight.
Today, Barrett is one of nine members of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning and chairs the Education and Job Training Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While his crusade for educational reform brought him into the national spotlight, Barrett first earned his reputation as a leader in 1989 after spearheading the successful effort to pass a gay and lesbian anti-discrimination law. Since then, he has cultivated a reputation as a Clinton-esque thinker with progressive leanings, backing causes and projects ranging from gun control to magnetic-levitation trains