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A VICTORY for Republican challenger James Rappaport would not just be a loss for the highly respected U.S. Senator John Kerry. It would send a message across the country that all a candidate needs to win federal election is an extra few million dollars and the telephone number of a sufficiently ruthless political consultant.
In his first term in the Senate, Kerry has earned the respect of fellow lawmakers and the continued support of his Massachusetts constitutents. Through intelligent and dedicated work on issues such as universal health insurance, the environment and veterans rights, Kerry has advanced concrete proposals from the planning to legislative stages. Honored for service in Vietnam, Kerry has made important contributions to peace in Central America through his work on the Foreign Relations Committee. Most recently, Kerry backed the 1990 Civil Rights Bill and opposed the nomination of Justice David H. Souter '61 on grounds of civil and women's rights.
In contrast to Kerry's impressive record, Rappaport's chief credential for office is the size of his wallet. With barely any record of community service and no experience as an elected official, Rappaport has only made the race close by pouring no less than four million dollars of his own money into his campaign. Most of these dollars have gone towards negative commercials against Kerry--many of which are based on outright lies and deliberate distortions. For example, Rappaport has claimed that Kerry met with known "terrorist" Guillerma Unga on a trip to Central America--a claim disputed by top officials from both the Bush administration and Congress. Rappaport's ads also imply that Kerry has never sponsored successful legislation--a blatant distortion of Kerry's record.
Why Rappaport has focused so much on negative issues is no mystery: He has no record of his own to stand on. Thirty-four years old, with gobs of money from his and his dad's real estate dealings, Rappaport is cut from the same cookie cutter that gave us our illustrious vice-president. (Kerry aides joke that Rappaport is Dan Quayle minus the intelligence.) Rappaport's campaign has focused on few issues other than Kerry's alleged misdeeds, and the need to keep down income taxes on the wealthy (i.e. on him) for the sake of the national economy. Even President Bush has abandoned that line.
Rappaport might have something of a case if Kerry could be pegged as a corrupt politician who has lost touch with the folks back home. But Kerry's efforts on behalf of Massachusetts are notable, and he is one of just three senators to refuse to take money from political action committees. He has led the fight in the Senate against savings and loan fraud, and has endorsed tax equity--sharing the tax burden more fairly--as a way to extricate this country from its fiscal mess.
He deserves another term as senator. What Rappaport deserves is a lesson in manners.
FOR the 8th Congressional seat, the clear choice is Joseph P. Kennedy II. After a shaky start in Congress, Kennedy has settled into a key role on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee. Recently, for example, he sponsored a successful amendment that forced savings and loans to disclose their lending patterns on the basis of race to their communities. His opponent Glen Fiscus is not a viable enough candidate to threaten Kennedy's deserved support.
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