John J. Droney has been District Attorney of Middlesex County since his appointment by then-Senator John F. Kennedy '40 in 1959.
From his beginnings as a vigorous crime-buster through three unopposed elections, Droney has been a fixture in county politics. That all might very well end today.
For the first time since 1966, Droney has received a serious challenge for his job--Scott Harshbarger '64.
Droney has not been able to effectively or personally answer Harshbarger's challenge. He has been suffering for the last three years from a debilitating illness that makes speech and movement difficult. He speaks and acts through surrogates, and his insistence in staying on for one more term has led many experts to believe if elected that he will serve only till February, when he will be eligible to collect maximum pension.
The campaign of Democrat Scott Harshbarger for Disctrict Attorney of Middlesex County, which began seven months ago as a "quixotic venture" by an experienced public sector attorney, has evolved somewhat dramatically into a serious and credible challenge to Droney's 19-year incumbency.
Harshbarger credits the success of his campaign to many things. For one, the former Assistant Attorney General and chief of the Public Protection Bureau has been strongly endorsed by The Boston Globe, the South Middlesex News, The Lowell Sun, The Somerville Journal, the Minuteman Publications, The Real Paper, as well as a host of Democratic town committees and liberal organizations.
The endorsements reflect the wide-spread appeal of Harshbarger's ten years of legal experience in addition to the grass-roots, county-wide campaigning he has done since resigning from the Attorney General's staff in February.
In 1974 a group of prescient liberals including Michael Walzer, professor of Government, and Martin Peretz, then-lecturer on Social Studies, took out newspaper ads supporting incumbent Republican Governor Francis Sargent against his ADA-endorsed Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis. The ads basically pointed out that Sargent was a good liberal who supported social welfare programs for the poor, and that a bird in the hand, etc... Dukakis won anyway, 65 per cent to 35 per cent. And the worst nightmares of the liberals have come true.
Dukakis is one of the new breed of liberal pols, like Jerry Brown of California and Pete Flaherty of Pennsylvania, who have discovered they can be liberal without the poor. They have to be environmentalist, consumerists, and support women's issues as long as it doesn't cost money, and keep up an obnoxiously honest and austere lifestyle. And they keep getting elected.
Under Dukakis, real incomes for welfare recipients have fallen 18 per cent; for the disabled, real incomes have dropped 20 per cent. Dukakis cut general relief completely in 1975. As State Rep. Barney Frank points out, Dukakis balanced the Massachusetts budget by lowering the real incomes of poor people.
But those aren't the issues in the 1978 campaign: former Cambridge Mayor Barbara Ackermanndoesn't have the money to mount an effective liberal challenge to Dukakis. And former MassPort Director Ed King would not only slash the incomes of poor people, he'd also sweep environmental, consumer and women's issues under the carpet. Dukakis will win again, but there is no joy in Mudville.
If both Edward Kings win their respective primaries for governor, there inevitably will be confusion on election day over who is who. Many Democratics are already confused, if not frustrated, over Edward J. King's more conservative, seemingly Republican politics.
King says he is running for the blue collar workers he describes as the "mainstream of the Democratic Party." He favors capital punishment, mandatory jail sentences for drug pushers, nuclear power as "the safest alternative form of energy," raising the drinking age to 21, and most of all--Proposition 13.
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