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One day last week, William Scott of Waltham called State Senator Francis X. McCann (D-Camb) to ask him to get his father into Massachusetts General Hospital.
Scott told McCann that the doctors there had refused to admit his father, who had just broken his leg on Cape Cod. McCann said he would "make a few phone calls" and then call Scott back. Later that day, McCann called Scott to give him the name of the doctor who would admit his father to Mass General.
McCann works year round doing favors for his constituents in hopes that they will remember him when election day rolls around. On September 19. McCann will--face the most difficult test in his 17-year career: he is being opposed by four candidates in the Second Middlesex District.
Unlike most Massachusetts legislators. McCann is a full time state senator. He spends most of his day at the State House working on individual people's problems which range from getting children into state institutions to having traffic lights installed on dangerous corners. When the legislature is in session, McCann serves as vice-chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and thus has an important role in guiding legislation through.
While McCann estimates that he spends the large majority of his time working on individual problems, he takes pride in the fact that he has passed strong gun control and penal reform legislation.
McCann's major effort in the area of penal reform has been to gain passage of a bill that would set up a separate facility for prisoners with no prior convictions. "Given the state of our prisoners now, it makes no sense to throw the first offenders in with hardened criminals. I've been working since 1966 to get the state to set up a special institution for first time offenders."
Though facing a difficult contest for re-election. McCann is not, running and aggressive campaign. He coafines his activities to making appearances at American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall around the district. It invited, McCann will go to people's houses, but he does not canvass door-to-door or stand at subway or bus stops.
"I feel it's an intrusion for me to go up to people uninvited. They may be tired or have something else other than politics on their mind and if I'm not known at this point I don't deserve to be re-elected."
McCann's two strongest opponents will probably be John Hogan '73 and David Wylie, a member of the Cambridge School Committee.
Wylie, who ran against McCann in the primary two years ago and lost by 1800 votes, is running a highly ideological campaign. Wylie rests his hopes on the fact that over 6000 new voters have been registered in Cambridge since the last election. He feels he can win the primary if he can get a large segment of the liberal Cambridge vote and run well in Belmont and Waltham.
In his campaign Wylie stresses McCann's opposition to what he considers to be progressive legislation. He cites McCann's votes against lowering the voting and drinking age to 18, and his vote for the two-thirds parole--a law that would have required all prison inmates, regardless of their crime or sentence, to serve two-thirds of their terms--as examples of his "reactionary" voting record.
To get his message to the voters, the Wylie campaign organization has set up a precinct organization in virtually every part of the district. Further, Wylie plans a number of directed mailings to different voting groups in he district. He estimates that his campaign will cost about $27,500.
On the campaign trail, Wylie seems uncomfortable talking to the predominantly middle class Catholic voters who make up a large percentage of the voters in the district. It seems unlikely that he will be able to make any inroads into McCann's base of support: the police, firemen, and other blue collar workers who generally do not vote on ideological grounds.
Wylie, who led the fight against School Superintendent Frank Frisoli in Cambridge, has conducted an aggressive personal campaign which begins early in the morning at bus stops and continues throughout the day and early evening with appearances at local shopping centers and door-to-door canvassing.
Hogan, who lives in Eliot House and Aliston-Brighton, began active campaigning last may and his continued daily since then. His campaingn is based largely on his contention that McCann has not gone out to meet the people of the district. As a senator, Hogan would try to provide the same kinds of services to constituents that Wylie tends to categorize people as blue-collar and white-collar without treating them as individuals.
Hogan's campaign is being run largely by volunteers from his neighborhood in Brighton. He and his volunteers are making a major push to bring out a large vote in Allston and Brighton stressing the point that the area has not had a state senator in 15 years. In some ways Hogan's campaign in similar to the one run by Larry DiCara in Dorchester during last year's Boston City Council race.
When canvassing, Hogan usually avoids issues unless directly asked about them. While taking strong stands in support of tax reform and regulation of public utilities, Hogan is against abortion reform and busing "for any purpose--not only to achieve racial balance."
The Second Middlesex District campaign has also attracted interest because one of Wylie's lawn signs was burned. The incident attracted a good deal of publicity, with McCann contending that it was blown out of proportion by the liberal press. The race also drew attention when Wylie was arrested after refusing to stop giving out leaflets inside he Harvard Square MTA station. Leafeltting bus stops is a common practice in political campaigns and a spokesman for the MTA could not recall another instance when a candidate has been arrested for doing it.
Hogan charged last week that McCann had offered friends of his $1000 to enter the race to try and split the vote in Allston-Brighton. McCann replied to the charge by demanding that Hogan bring his evidence, if he has any, to the proper legal authorities.
"If Mr. Hogan has any evidence of the charge he is making. I will meet him at any time he wants in the district attorney or attorney general's office. And if he can prove these charges I'll give everything I have to his favorite charity," McCann said.
The other two candidates in the Middlesex Second District race, John Bowen of Belmont and Ed Power from Boston, are not rated as serious contenders.
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