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As Cambridge voters head to the polls today to cast their ballots in the presidential elections, they will also weigh in on several local races featuring candidates with Harvard connections.
The two Harvard-affiliated candidates—one a recent graduate, the other a member of the Leverett Senior Common Room—are each mounting long-shot campaigns against popular incumbents.
But coming from either end of the political spectrum, both candidates say they want to mount a challenge to the Democratic Party’s dominance in the area.
In the district that includes Harvard and its surrounding neighborhoods, Carolina S. Johnson ’04 is running on the Green-Rainbow Party ticket, representing the first opposition that Democratic State Rep. Alice K. Wolf has faced since her initial election in 1996.
Wolf, a former mayor and member of the School Committee and City Council, has a wide base of support in the 25th Middlesex District.
But while Johnson has expressed agreement with many of Wolf’s positions, she takes issue with the nature of state-wide politics.
“You don’t have accountability, you don’t have opposition, you don’t have debate on a variety of levels,” she said.
Johnson has held several events on campus to publicize her campaign. She said several of her key platforms may appeal to students, including her support for affordable housing, her push for later hours for public transportation service and her emphasis on public safety in light of recent indecent assaults near campus.
Wolf, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government and served as an Institute of Politics fellow in 1994, said she had won support on campus for her work on the living wage campaign and her advocacy on behalf of same-sex marriage.
She has also been a visible presence at neighborhood meetings to discuss Harvard’s expansion.
“There’s always tension between Harvard and its neighbors around development issues, so I try to be helpful...in coming up with solutions that will work,” she said.
While Wolf called her chances of winning “quite good,” Johnson was more guarded.
“I feel the campaign will have benefits no matter how the numbers come out on Election Day,” Johnson said. “It’s very rare for a first-time challenger of an incumbent to win that election. I really don’t know how I’m going to do.”
Writer, Yale graduate and Leverett Senior Common Room member David R. Slavitt will take on six-term incumbent State Rep. Timothy J. Toomey in the 26th Middlesex District, which includes East Cambridge and part of Somerville.
Toomey, also a member of the Cambridge City Council, is coming off a hotly contested Democratic primary in which he defeated local political consultant Avi Green.
While Slavitt is running as a Republican in a city known for its liberal leanings, he has emphasized his support for abortion—which Toomey opposes—and same-sex marriage.
After making calls to Republican and unaffiliated voters in the city, Slavitt said this weekend he had shifted his focus to female Democrats in precincts that favored Green, touting his endorsement from NARAL, an abortion-rights organization.
Toomey said he believes his constituents are aware of his position against abortion, and emphasized his support for family planning.
He also stressed that the differences between him and his opponent fall mainly along party lines, criticizing Slavitt’s plan to roll back the state income tax.
“I don’t think we can afford to do that right now with the financial situation of the state still being precarious,” Toomey said, adding that a tax cut would lead to reductions in funding for education, health care and other programs.
Slavitt said some Cambridge voters hung up on him when he told them his party affiliation, but he believes in the importance of a “lively, healthy opposition party.”
“I think [Toomey is] just out of touch,” Slavitt said. “But then Cambridge is out of touch. Cambridge and Berkeley, Calif., are the joke cities of America.”
Slavitt said that he placed his odds of winning at 15 to 1, but he still thinks victory is possible.
“If enough weird things happen, I could win,” he said. “I asked my wife, what would I do then, and she looked at me over her glasses balefully and said, ‘Then you have to go.’”
For his part, Toomey said he planned to campaign up until the very end of the race.
“I’ll relax when they declare the winner,” he said.
In the 24th Middlesex District, which includes North Cambridge, incumbent Democratic Rep. Anne M. Paulsen will take on Republican Kevin M. Cuddeback.
In the 8th Suffolk District, Democrat Marty Walz is running against Republican Richard L. Babson and America First Party candidate L. Thomas White for the state senate seat vacated by Paul C. Demakis ’75, who did not seek re-election. The district includes MIT, Cambridgeport and Area 4 as well as Boston’s Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods.
In the 2nd Suffolk and Middlesex District, Democrat Steven A. Tolman is running for re-election to the state Senate against Republican Robert P. Ferencsik.
On the national level, Democratic Congressman Michael E. Capuano, who represents Cambridge, is running unopposed in the election.
—Staff writer Jessica R. Rubin-Wills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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