Council Campaign Intensifies

29 Vie for 9 Seats

The field for the November 2 municipal election is already as crowded as Church Street's Border Cafe on a Saturday night.

The city election commission said yesterday that 29 candidates had already filed nomination papers with the 50 to 100 signatures required to secure a place on the ballot for the nine-member Cambridge City Council. The filing deadline is July 30.

The number of candidates is the highest is recent memory, and it may make the endorsement process all the more important for candidates seeking to separate themselves from the crowd.

Because the City Council race is not divided into Republican and Democratic camps, there are no primaries. To some extent, the winnowing and testing process that ordinarily would be designated to a party committee or voters in a primary is assigned in Cambridge to citizens groups and neighborhood associations.

These groups put candidates through a rigorous selection process and eventually come up with heavily publicized slates of endorsed candidates.


The most powerful endorsement granting group traditionally has been the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA). The CCA endorsement process involves an hour-and-a-half interview before a screening committee, then a vote by the full CCA board of about 40 people.

The CCA has already endorsed incumbent councilors Edward N. Cyr, Francis H. Duehay '55 and Jonathan S. Meyers. It has also endorsed Kathy Born and Katherine Triantafillou, who hope to win first-time seats on the council.

A second round of "late endorsements" will come at a CCA board meeting this Thursday. Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 and Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association President John R. Pitkin were both recommended by the CCA screening committee and will likely be endorsed Thursday. Some board members may also move to endorse Elaine Noble, according to CCA president R. Phillip Dowds.

Dowds said the civic association looks for candidates who are generally supportive of the organizations progressive agenda and platform. Another criterion, he said, is a candidate's ability to work with other candidates as a team.

The endorsements by liberal groups are often overlapping. Another liberal political group, Cambridge Rainbow, has endorsed Cyr, Meyer and Reeves.

Neil Rohr of Cambridge Rainbow described the organization's endorsement process as "extensive." The group has an election task force that interviews candidates and then forwards recommendations to endorsement meetings of the organization's general membership.

Rohr said the Rainbow endorsement process is still underway, and that there may be more endorsements in the coming weeks. The endorsements are based on a commitment to "equity and access" to government services, housing and jobs.

A newcomer to the endorsement game may be on the horizon. Some members of the Cambridge Alliance, a non-profit educational group, are founding a separate group that is likely to be endorsing candidates for office.

Members of the Cambridge Alliance, which was formed in part as a splinter group of the CCA, are careful to distance themselves from the new political organization. But Carl Barron, a Central Square business person who was a founder of the alliance, knows enough about the political organization to say that "a new group will be announced in the next week or so."

Barron said the group intends to send out questionnaires, conduct interviews and make endorsements.

Are all these endorsements worth the time and effort? The endorsers, at least, say the answer is yes, and that endorsements are, as Dowds said, "very important."

Dowds said that under Cambridge's system of proportional representation, where voters mark multiple choices on their ballot in order of preference, voting for a slate of candidates is "extremely important."

The CCA president also said that endorsements are important for many voters who have some interest or knowledge in city politics but are not intimately familiar with each candidates positions or record. Endorsements can serve such voters as a guide.

Rohr said endorsements can make "a notable difference to non-incumbents." For incumbents, he said, the endorsement is less important than the adverse publicity and effect for a non-endorsement.Crimson File PhotoMayor KENNETH E. REEVES '72, endorsed by Cambridge Rainbow, is also courting the CCA.