LEAST FAVORITE SON: Cambridge’s 02138 voters haven’t forgotten Anthony Galluccio’s tough races against Alice Wolf and Jarrett Barrios.
Cambridge city councilor Anthony Galluccio is still working to fulfill the promise he showed 10 years ago, when Boston magazine named him one of its “40 most powerful under 40 years old.” Now, after almost continuously chasing higher office since 1994, unsuccessfully, he is considered by many to be the front-runner for the State Senate seat vacated by Jarrett Barrios, who resigned in July to become president of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.
More than a decade of campaigning — including two previous shots in the gerrymandered Senate district that includes portions of Boston, Cambridge, Everett, Somerville, Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus — has given Galluccio strong name recognition, political organization, and fundraising ability, which may help him to finally achieve his thus-far elusive victory.
But his repeated campaign efforts also have created bad blood in a city that takes its politics very seriously, all the more so since Galluccio has dared to run against two of Cambridge’s favorite politicians: Barrios, and former-mayor-turned-state-representative Alice Wolf.
Galluccio is exactly the kind of hands-on, bread-and-butter, shoe-leather son of immigrants preferred by voters in much of the working-class Senate district, say current and former officeholders in the area. Yet for all his potential success in Everett, Saugus, and Charlestown, his campaign’s weak link may lie in his home base of Cambridge. Running for council, he has been able to draw from the city’s working-class, relatively moderate neighborhoods. But those are not the portions of Cambridge contained in Barrios’s former Senate district. Instead, Galluccio is looking smack at the heart of 02138 land, the Harvard-dominated center of liberal intelligencia. Of the 13 Cambridge precincts voting in the September 11 State Senate election, nine are represented by Wolf.
To make matters worse, the perennial candidate has been saddled with serious accusations of drunk driving that won’t go away.
As the election approaches, Galluccio now finds himself stalked by three competitors, including Tim Flaherty, a Cambridge attorney with a famous political name, solid liberal credentials, at least as much funding as Galluccio, and the tacit backing of Wolf. The Cambridge lefties, it seems, are not going to let Galluccio win without yet another fight.
Galluccio’s trouble with Cambridge liberals dates back to his strong support for ending rent control in the 1990s, a position which he defends as an attempt to work out a pragmatic solution, rather than turn it into a black-and-white issue. In the end, the state’s voters killed the policy altogether through a 1994 ballot initiative. Thirteen years later, though, Cambridge residents still remember Galluccio as being on the “wrong” side in that battle.
Galluccio was also slow to support gay marriage and in-state tuition for immigrants, two articles of liberal faith, evolving on both between his 2002 Senate campaign and this year’s. And his attempts to work with Harvard on its expansion plans have drawn criticism from those who want a harder line of opposition against the university, none of which might endear him to liberal Cantabrigians.
Still, Galluccio can claim to have helped form the Cambridge Health Alliance and Energy Alliance. And in his literature targeted to Cambridge voters, the word “progressive” appears prominently; readers are told of his support for Cape Wind, marriage equality, reproductive freedom, “progressive tax reforms,” closing corporate tax loopholes, and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
Galluccio has even landed endorsements from two progressive groups: Mass Alliance and Progressive Democrats of Cambridge. But his opponents are downplaying the importance, and even the liberal bone fides of those groups.
Often, however, this animosity from the left seems more personal than ideological — due, in part, to the fact that many have simply never forgiven him for running against Wolf in 1996, when Wolf, the city’s former mayor, prevailed against Galluccio to first become a state representative.
“The left doesn’t like him, because he ran against Queen Alice,” says one elected official who is remaining neutral in the race.
In fact, Galluccio not only ran, he ran tough and aggressively — dirty, some still say. Then he ran another tough campaign against Barrios in 2002, for the open State Senate seat. Barrios pummeled Galluccio in the Cambridge precincts by a two-to-one margin, and won that race.
For his part, Galluccio attributes his 2002 loss to his concentration on other areas of the district where he had never before run. “I let Jarrett roam free in Cambridge,” he says. “And you can never, never, let Jarrett roam free. He’s too good.”
But the other candidates running against Galluccio this time suggest that he simply isn’t popular in the Senate district’s portion of Cambridge.
The question is: do Cantabrigians have another Barrios to vote for instead?
That is, can another candidate appeal to the Harvard Square set, while also drawing in voters from Everett and Chelsea? Could another candidate “connect 02138 with the blue-collar communities north of Boston,” as Galluccio puts it?
That’s where Flaherty comes in.