Bay State Democrats Hope to Keep Bucking National Trend

Massachusetts' Hopefuls Vow to Struggle Against National Shift to Right in Upcoming Local, Statewide Elections

The American Revolution may have started here in 1775, but the Gingrich Revolution completely missed Massachusetts in 1994.

In an election season of heavy Democratic losses at polls across the nation, the Bay State's congressional Democrats were spared the Gingrich guillotine and won easily in all of their respective elections.

But even in a state in which Democratic voters easily outnumber their Republican cohorts three-to-one, the Democratic party suffered humiliating defeats in last year's races for major state offices.

As the state gears up for next year's congressional elections, another senatorial race, and the presidential race, Massachusetts Democrats are confident in their party's stronghold but still wary of their Republican foes.

"We're going to need a grass-roots level campaign during the next 12 or 13 months, if we are going to be a viable party," says State Rep. Alvin E. Thompson (D-Cambridge). "We're going to have to work more on the grass-roots level, if we are going to get back what we lost."

Easy Victories

Thompson's remark is surprising considering the relative ease with which eight Democrats won their races for U.S. House seats and with which U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 won his sixth term in the Senate.

Kennedy, who faced the toughest race of his political career, easily dispatched his Republican opponent, W. Mitt Romney by a 58 to 41 percent tally.

In fact, only three incumbent Democratic U.S. Senators secured their seats by a wider margin than did Kennedy: U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), and U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii).

And no Democratic incumbent from Massachusetts in the House of Representatives won by less than 23 percent. Of all the races in which a Democratic incumbent was running, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal of the state's second district had the closest race winning by a final tally of 59 percent to 36 percent.

Three congressional Democrats, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver of the first district, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank '61 of the fourth district and U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II of the eight district, did not even face challenges in November.

"The Northeast has always been somewhat Democratic, it's a Democratic stalwart if there ever was," says Adam Sohn, deputy press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. "They had a strong congressional ticket up and down...it was an example of real congressional politics and these guys have delivered."

Former Cambridge mayor and Democratic state committee member Alice K. Wolf also attributes the Democratic success to the powers of incumbency.

"They were all very strong candidates in their districts," says Wolf. "They were very strong incumbents and thus they were hard to beat."

But some observers say that Massachusetts has already succumbed to the GOP revolution.