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Speakers Predict Turning Point

Tsongas, Pierce Foresee Landmark Election in Massachusetts

By Seth Mnookin

Despite affirming that they will throw their weight behind different candidates, both former Republican gubernatorial candidate Stephen Pierce and former U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas told a Kennedy School of Government audience yesterday that next week's elections will mark a turning point in the state's political landscape.

"This is the type of election that comes along once in a lifetime," Pierce said. "Every election is said to be important. This one is critically important."

Both Pierce and Tsongas, in separate 20 minute addresses, agreed that either gubernatorial candidate--Democratic nominee John R. Silber or Republican nominee William F. Weld '66--would shake up the state's political status quo if elected.

Tsongas said the fact that the Democratic party has dominated Massachusetts politics for several decades has led to complacency among legislators and is one cause of the state's current fiscal woes.

But even if Silber is elected and continues the traditional Democratic stronghold on the governorship, Tsongas said, he is far enough removed from the political "circus" in Massachusetts that he would be able to institute widespread changes without losing key support.

In his address, which preceded Tsongas', Pierce made little reference to Silber, instead affirming that Weld is sufficiently removed from the state's politics to successfully implement badly-needed changes.

Tsongas said that although "we have different styles," he added that he is a staunch supporter of Silber, the controversial Boston University president. Tsongas said he was especially impressed by Silber's recent book, Straight Shooting, in which the nominee outlines his belief that the U.S. is in the midst of a major economic and cultural decline.

"We were the king of the hill, and as the decades went on, we got used to it and grew less concerned with what we produced," Tsongas said. "What the United States is going through is what happens to human beings when they lose the desire to stay on top."

"John Silber, for all his problems, is the first person who feels in his gut that this is the most important issue that faces America at the moment," Tsongas continued.

The two speakers also stated their differences on a proposed tax plan sponsored by Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT), which would roll back the state's taxes to 1988 levels.

Pierce said the CLT proposal is necessary because otherwise legislators will raise taxes uncontrollably and will worsen the state's already large budget deficit. "If [CLT] is defeated, it will be a ratification of all that's gone on for the past years," he said.

But Tsongas said the CLT proposal would deprive the state of essential funds for social programs.

Passing [CLT] to get something done reminds me of army generals in Vietnam who would destroy villages to save them," Tsongas said.

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