HARVARD VOTERS will find only two contested elections--both for county posts--when they go to the polls tomorrow, and the lack of interest in the elections is a good measure of the importance of the jobs at stake. Paradoxically, that is exactly why registered voters should make sure they cast their ballots tomorrow.
Should Thomas Larkin unseat incumbent Michael McLaughlin in the race for county commissioner, he might be able to start on his promised campaign to wipe out county government--a bureaucratic sinkhole useful only as a source of patronage jobs. But electing Larkin is not enough--voters would also have to support incumbent S. Lester Ralph for the other open seat if they hope for reform, not so much because he is a progressive but because he is less regressive than McLaughlin. Currently under scrutiny for possible election law fraud, McLaughlin deserves nothing so little as another chance to play fast and loose with the Middlesex county treasury.
The other contest is for sheriff, a post even less intrinsically important than county commissioner. Sheriffs do very, very little today--they run the county's jail, appoint those who serve notice on citizens called to justice, and bring the Harvard Commencement to order each year. Again, the job has become a Christmas-stocking position, perfect for the generous politician eager to hand out presents to his family and friends. Of the seven candidates (including another man named Michael McLaughlin) only Edward Henneberry seems willing or likely to change the nature of the job.
In other areas of the state, liberal politicians fighting off hard challenges need student volunteers at the polls today. State rep. Barney Frank '61, who demonstrated his effective brand of nuts-and-bolts liberalism for more than a decade in the State House, is trying to succeed Robert Drinan, the left-leaning priest ordered by the Vatican to leave politics. And in the other half of Middlesex county, incumbent Democrat James Shannon is trying to hold onto his job in the face of a conservative challenge from Robert Hatem. A letter from Boston's Cardinal Medeiros blasting both Frank and Shannon for their stands on abortion may hurt their candidacies. Liberals need to turn out in unprecedented numbers if the Bay State's congressional delegation is to remain among the most progressive in the country.
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