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Duehay Crosses Party Lines to Elect Russell as Mayor

Twelve Years Ago, Duehay's Crossover Vote Gave Cambridge Mayoral Election to Sheila's Late Husband Leonard Russell


When City Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55 decided over the Presidents' Day weekend to withdraw from the mayoral race, he may not have known he was making history.

According to Cambridge pundit Glen S. Koocher '71, Duehay made local history by crossing over from the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) and supporting Alliance candidate Sheila T. Russell, even though the Alliance for Change and the CCA candidates had four votes each.

"This is the first time a progressive majority candidate has seen one of its members cross over to support an independent candidate," Koocher said.

Even so, the situation must have felt somewhat familiar. In 1984, it was Duehay's crossover vote that gave the mayoral election to Independent Leonard J. Russell--the late husband of current Mayor Russell. And, four years before that, Leonard Russell had crossed party lines to give Duehay the election.

Duehay said he realized over a week before the election that he would not get the five votes to become mayor.

"It was my opinion that there was very little chance--at that time--of me getting a fifth vote from anybody," he said.

With the CCA and the Alliance dead-locked with four votes each, and the wild card independent Kenneth E. Reeves '72 making overtures to both parties, the race was anybody's guess.

So, versed in the art of the possible, Duehay opted for the next best possibility: taking charge of the decision making process.

"Katherine Triantafillou, Henrietta Davis and I had a meeting," Duehay said. "Katherine had called me, saying that the previous week, when Ken Reeves was voting for other people, we ought to get together."

At that time, Duehay said, the four CCA members brainstormed, talked to Geneva Malenfant, the head of the CCA, and came up with "about fifteen things" to discuss with Sheila T. Russell.

"They wanted to make sure I wouldn't go bonkers, I guess," Russell said.

Russell said that she had received an offer of support from Reeves, but had rejected it.

"Reeves had told me...he would vote for me if--and he gave me a list of conditions," she said.

Although Duehay was prepared to vote for Russell without the support of the other CCA councillors, he and Russell both wanted a to build a consensus.

Over the week of February 20, all of the CCA councillors met with Russell individually, and the weekend before the election the four councillors met together to discuss their meetings with Russell.

The CCA members agreed to support Russell, with the exception of Triantafillou.

"Kathleen...was somewhat hesitant about our conclusions," Duehay said.

In order to balance the selection of Alliance-endorsed Russell, the CCA members wanted to put forward one of their own for vice chair, the number two position on the council.

Duehay, the senior member of the CCA and the council, did not want the spot.

"That is a very good way to get visibility, but that takes time away from city business," he said. "That isn't the way I want to spend my time."

Two candidates were put forward: Born and Triantafillou.

"It was up in the air until late on Sunday afternoon," Born said.

But the CCA chose Born--"They realized that I had a good relationship with Mayor Russell," she said.

Perhaps Duehay remembered another Cambridge mayoral race, not of the 80's but of the 40's. In the election of 1948, City Councillor Ed Crane crossed party lines after 1,321 deadlocked ballots to elect Councillor Michael J. Neville mayor.

Like Duehay, Crane declined the vice chair's seat, and in the city election of 1949, the "Mayor-Maker" was reelected by a landslide. Riding the wave of his popularity, Crane was elected governor in

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