One was a Republican running in the “People’s Republic of Cambridge.” The other was a Green-Rainbow Party candidate taking on an incumbent who had run unopposed since 1996.
In their campaigns, both of these Harvard affiliates called for an end to the Democratic Party stranglehold on local politics. That vise-like grip remains—last week, they both lost to Democratic opponents who enjoyed larger war chests and overwhelming neighborhood support. Still, they say they enjoyed the ride.
“This election was a very odd combination of encouraging experiences and disheartening realities,” says Carolina S. Johnson ’04, who challenged State Rep. Alice K. Wolf in the 25th Middlesex District, which includes Harvard. Johnson, who co-founded the Harvard College Greens as an undergraduate, won less than 16% of the vote against Wolf, but she says she was glad many voters she spoke to didn’t simply dismiss her because of her youth. “For the most part, people took me seriously,” she says.
For now, Johnson will return to her job at Harvard’s Student Disabilities Office and plans to apply to graduate school in political science, but she hasn’t thrown in the towel yet. “I probably will run for office again at some point in my life,” she says.
But for David R. Slavitt, a member of the Leverett Senior Common Room, his losing campaign against incumbent State Rep. Timothy J. Toomey will be his last. At the age of 69, Slavitt calls campaigning “a young person’s game.” And he bristles at an editorial in the Cambridge Chronicle, which endorsed his opponent in the 26th Middlesex District but suggested Slavitt consider running for city office. He scoffs at the idea of joining a political body he says is “funnier than the Three Stooges,” adding, “I cannot imagine the crime that I would commit of such heinousness that the appropriate punishment would condemn me to serve on the City Council of Cambridge.”
Despite his loss, Slavitt—a Yale graduate who has published over 80 works—may mine some literary gold from the experience. He plans to submit to publishers a 600-page journal of his campaign experience.
And while 12% of the Cambridge vote may seem paltry, Slavitt’s in good company in one respect—President George W. Bush garnered the same amount of support in this liberal bastion. “Cambridge is basically out of touch with the country and indeed with the solar system, so it’s kind of a badge of honor to lose here,” Slavitt says.