Five weeks before Election Day, a fundraiser by a Cambridge political action group added thousands of dollars to the campaign coffers of several candidates for city offices.
Nearly 60 residents attended Thursday's fundraiser, sponsored by the campaign sub-committee of the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA), a progressive citizens' coalition.
The approximately $9,000 in contributions collected will be used to support the seven candidates for Cambridge City Council and the five candidates for the Cambridge School Committee endorsed by the CCA, according to John W. Gintell, treasurer.
"We will all be working hard to see a majority [of CCA members] elected to the city council and the school committee," CCA President Geneva T. Malenfant said of the November 7 race.
The CCA, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this June, traditionally has pushed for a progressive platform including controlled economic growth, environmental protection, preservation of historic buildings and increased social services.
In the past, much of the group's support was derived from backers of rent control, an initiative begun in 1970 and struck down by state-wide referendum last November.
Following the abolition of rent control, many tenants who previously voted the CCA ticket have fled the city in search of affordable housing, according to CCA member David E. Sullivan.
And with its core constituency in flux, the group is bracing for a tough fight.
"With rent control gone, it's a different ballgame," said member Chuck R. Colbert. "This election is an important one, but it's also a scary one."
'Democracy and Diversity'
CCA-endorsed candidates will battle against a field of conservative independent many of whom are endorsed by the conservative Alliance for Change.
In the 19-person race for city council, the CCA has endorsed incumbents Kathy L. Born, Francis H. Duehay '55, Katherine L. Triantafillou and newcomers Henrietta A. Davis, Craig A. Kelly, Lester P. Lee, Jr. and Ralph Lopez.
The group is also backing Tony Knopp, Susana Segat and Alice Turkel as well as incumbents Robin A. Harris and E. Denise Simmons for the school committee.
"Our slate is a model of democracy and diversity," Malenfant said of the anointed group, which includes seven women, three minorities and two homosexuals.
Malenfant said the diversity of the CCA's slate will prove valuable once city officials move to replace outgoing Police Commissioner Perry L. Anderson and School Superintendent Mary Lou McGrath, whose contract expires in June 1997.
"We'd like to see professional, experienced administrators hired who will understand Cambridge's own diverse blend of residents and citizens," she said.
Candidates seeking CCA endorsement must receive a favorable vote from the group's entire membership, according to Gintell. Candidates are asked to form a consensus on major issues but are not bound to pledge support for each of the planks of CCA's platform, he said.
While some candidates said they sought CCA endorsement because of its liberal platform, Lopez said he was attracted by the organization's intense grassroots activism and civic spirit.
"The CCA stresses good citizenship in local government and social justice," he said. "Cities and states need to energize the people, and that beginning from the ground up."
Kelly said he joined the CCA because it was the only organization in the city that responded to a letter of complaint he wrote the city council in 1994. Providing such dialogue with voters is the main role of local government, he said.
"I don't care what the CCA stands for--at least they respond to people," Kelly said.
Getting Out the Vote
Elections in Cambridge are conducted under a unique proportional representation system, which allows citizens to rank their choice of candidates, and then redistributes votes to the next candidate marked on the ballot once candidates reach a quota of approximately 10 percent of the ballots cast.
Some 22,000 people went to the polls in 1993. If a similar number vote this year, candidates would need a quota of about 2,200 votes to be assured of election, according to Gintell.
The CCA plans to help candidates meet that magic number by distributing slate cards, identifying likely voters and manning phone banks, Malenfant said.
In addition, individual candidates are encouraged to list the entire CCA-endorsed slate in their literature, she said.
"We'd like to help people vote for the whole slate," said CCA member Elaine M. Kistiakowsky. "Cambridge is a typically liberal city. It's a question of voter turnout."
The gathering was addressed by Chip Borlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, who discussed ways progressive candidates may refute charges made by conservatives--particularly those of the Greater Boston Christian Coalition, which plans to campaign on behalf of certain candidates for school committee.
"We must out-organize them," Borlet said. "We must learn about the topics they will be bringing up and have a coherent answer."
Leaving the fundraiser, candidates said they were eager to put their newly acquired riches to good use and begin campaigning in earnest.
"There's a lot of work to be done," said Duehay, a 12-term incumbent. "Apathy and taking things for granted are forces we'll have to overcome."