The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 15, 2000


State Primary on Tuesday

The September 19 Massachusetts Primary election promises to be a rather one-sided affair. Of the three party slates to be determined in this run-up to the November election, only the Democrats list choices. Even their ballot, to no one's surprise, shows no contest in the nomination for U.S. Senator, conceding it to the reigning incumbent Democrat Senator Edward M. Kennedy. However, the Senator's congressional colleague, U.S. Representative Martin Meehan, has two challengers from within his party. Other contested offices on the Democratic ballot include Governor's Council, Clerk of Courts and Register of Probate.

Meehan faces opposition

Voters in this part of the Fifth Congressional District may have been unaware that Meehan is facing opposition, unless they have driven through towns in the western or northern sections of the district, where signs are numerous. The Congressman's two would-be spoilers are Joseph Osbaldeston of Ayer and Thomas Tierney of Framingham, both of whom base their campaigns in large part on Meehan's change of position on term limits.

During his successful campaign for a congressional seat in 1992, Meehan faced off first against his Democratic opponent, four-term Congressman Chester Atkins, and subsequently defeated a Republican challenger on a platform featuring a pledge to limit his stay in Congress to four terms. He has since abandoned support for term limits, saying he has learned it takes time to become an effective legislator in Washington and, above all, that his constituents have pressured him to run again. It is significant in this regard that no Republican challenger has emerged and Atkins almost immediately announced his support of Meehan's decision to seek a fifth term.

Osbaldeston, in addition to his promise, if elected, to limit his incumbency to two terms, describes himself as "an Independent running in the Democratic primary." He has outlined a decidedly conservative program that calls for a 25-percent cut in congressional salaries and staff expenses, a flat tax, an "aggressive program of privatization" of Social Security and a belief that "no school should be hampered by any agency higher than its own town."

Tierney, an independent actuary for 20 years who graduated from Boston College and received a master's from Northeastern University, describes his campaign as a "restoration of honor" race. He declares that his first legislative priority in Washington "will be a fighting defense against the Republican plan to cut Social Security benefits." In addition, he pledges to " back legislation to restructure medical care, customize education and protect the earth's environment." In his professional life, Tierney reports that he has been active and successful in a reform movement to protect the contracts and ownership rights of members of mutual insurance companies and similar types of cooperatives -- experience that he feels will carry over to the fashioning of effective legislative initiatives in Congress.

Meehan's campaign headquarters identified his legislative priorities as follows: add a prescription drug benefit under Medicare to help seniors defray drug costs; pay down the national debt; boost federal spending on education, primarily for the upgrading of school buildings and improvement of student/teacher ratios; pass the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform Bill that has twice succeeded in the House but failed in the Senate.

Republican Libertarian ballots

The republican ballot gives its supporters a chance to endorse unopposed candidates Jack E. Robinson for U.S. Senator, Andrew Pryor of Waltham for State Senator, Carol Cleven of Chelmsford for State Representative and Lee Johnson of Medford for Register of Probate. The Libertarian ballot names Carla Howell of Wayland to run against Senator Kennedy and Patrick El-Azem of Chelmsford to oppose Carol Cleven of Chelmsford. Since no candidates have presented themselves for the remaining posts on these two ballots, victory in the primary contests is tantamount to election for the numerous Democrat nominees.

Governor's Council

The two-way contest for a seat on the Massachusetts Governor's Council appears tight. The candidates are sitting councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney of Watertown and an opponent whom she defeated by less than one percent of the vote in 1998, Ruth Nemzoff of Newton.

The first question usually asked about this race is, "What does the council do?" It signs off on payments from the state treasury and makes the final decision on parole board recommendations, criminal pardons and commutations. By far, its most far-reaching function is to hold hearings and pass on the Governor's judicial appointments, including judges at all levels.

Devaney is focusing her campaign on her two-year record on the council where she convinced her colleagues to look into the process by which petitioners apply to the Board of Executive Clemency and await subsequent action, or lack thereof, by the Governor. She reports that Governor Paul Cellucci has presented only 16 requests for pardons in three years, some dating back to 1991. According to Devaney, the majority of these cases involve persons who made one mistake as a juvenile or youth, have since led successful lives and wish to have the record expunged.

Holder of a bachelor's degree from Suffolk University and a master's from Boston State College, Devaney believes her "real life experiences" as a 20-year Watertown councilor-at-large and volunteer counselor of juveniles on probation has prepared her for the $25,000-per-year post.

Challenger Ruth Nemzoff offers an impressive resume that lists a bachelor's from Barnard University, a master's from Columbia and a Ph.D. in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard.

Nemzoff was appointed New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Health and Welfare following three terms as a member and later minority leader of the New Hampshire legislature. Since her return to Massachusetts in the late '80s, she has held a variety of academic posts and at present is an associate professor of government at Bentley College and visiting scholar in women's studies at Brandeis University. With this wide variety of experiences in government, education, community and social action, Nemzoff promises "to fight for sound, effective government and to support judges who not only know the law, but also know the communities they will serve." She has received the endorsement of the Woman's Political Caucus.

Clerk of Courts

The race for Middlesex Clerk of Courts between two unrelated candidates named Sullivan has caught the imagination of the media. It pits 41-year incumbent Edward J. Sullivan of Cambridge against newcomer Dennis Michael Sullivan of Somerville. Predictably, the former cites his experience and record of accomplishment in the $88,000-a-year job, while the latter insists it's "time for a change" and calls for modernization of the office. The clerk administers the two Superior Courts in Cambridge and Lowell, and heads a staff of 94 that maintains all court records for the 54 cities and towns in the county.

Incumbent Sullivan's campaign literature credits him with pioneering the one day/one trial jury system under which potential jurors need report for only a single day and if not chosen as jurors are dismissed, a system since standardized throughout the commonwealth. He also points out that his was the first court in the state to computerize records and provide Internet access to court documents for attorneys and clients.

The challenger, 32-year-old Dennis, a two-term Somerville School Committee member, cites " a backlog of cases, cumbersome filing methods and an archaic jury duty system." His objectives, if elected, include a comprehensive website where citizens can file simple documents electronically, ask general legal questions and access the status of their jury duty.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito