Conservatives Hope For City Election Gains


Buoyed by the fall of rent control and an overall desire for change among Cambridge voters, conservative candidates endorsed by the Alliance for Change are optimistic about their chances to gain control of city offices in the November 7 election.

Although the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) has held a tenuous one vote majority on both the city council and the school committee since 1989, observers say they expect the balance of power to shift to the alliance.

"I think we're seeing conservatism becoming more respectable in Cambridge," said Donald L.K. Trumbull, chair of the Cambridge Republican Committee.

Much of the CCA's base came from supporters of rent control, a 1970 initiative repealed by statewide referendum last November. Without their main issue, CCA candidates may be in trouble.

"The conventional wisdom is that the CCA is going to lose a seat," said Jon R. Maddox, an Alliance-backed school committee candidate.


"Rent control guaranteed votes from tenants and the more transient elements of the population. But now that it has been lifted, we're seeing a major realignment," Maddox said.

Gretna J. Bohn-Hayden, a neighborhood activist, said she thinks many of the 4,000 citizens who have been dropped from the voting lists since last election were tenants in rent-controlled properties who have left Cambridge.

By contrast, the new tenants tend to be from more conservative background, she said.

"Just in my building, several people moved....I'm positive they were liberals and I know [the new tenants] are not," Bohn-Hayden said.

The emergence of the Christian Coalition of Greater Boston, head-quartered in Cambridge, underscores the growing conservative mood in the city.

The group boasts some 150 active members in Cambridge and is helping to draw attention to its family values platform, according to coalition chair A. George Catavolo.

"They're mentioning us in the newspaper every day, so there's no doubt we're in the back of everyone's mind," he said.

But property taxes rather than social policy have been the focus of Alliance candidates, who are increasingly critical of the many city services financed by citizens' tax dollars.

Alliance candidates have pledged to eliminate some city commissions, consolidate offices and trim peripheral areas of the city and school committee budgets.

"Voters want candidates who will guard their taxes and make sure they're getting their money's worth," former City Councillor William H. Walsh said.

Some CCA candidates seem to have noticed the growing discontent and made efforts to demonstrate their desire to please these voters.