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A Classic Senate Race In Massachusetts

By Bruce Morton/CNN

John Kerry

CONCORD, Mass. (AllPolitics, Oct. 29) -- In one of the most closely watched Senate races this fall, Massachusetts voters have a classic choice next week.

The race is between William Weld, a Harvard graduate and two-term Republican governor and John Kerry, a Yale graduate who won the Silver Star in Vietnam. Kerry is the Bay State's two-term Democratic senator, the job Weld wants now.

Their backgrounds are alike, but their differences on policy are many.

William Weld

Says Weld: "I have cut taxes 15 times in the last six years. We've moved this state from having a 10 percent unemployment rate to a 4 percent unemployment rate."

Kerry responds: "The bridge to the 21st century is not just tax cuts for the wealthy. Let us instead invest in job training and education."

It is a classic fight. Kerry, the liberal, has spent 12 years more or less under Sen. Ted Kennedy's wing. Weld is a fiscal conservative but a social libertarian, who is for abortion rights and gay rights. And he is a free spirit, the kind of man who will dive into Massachusetts' Charles River on a whim, and is happy pouring beer for supporters in J.J. Foley's, in Boston's South End.


Kerry says he'd never win a personality contest against Weld. Weld says he'd never win the swimsuit event against Kerry. Weld stresses his independence.

"I've had nobody come in to campaign for me, and the reason is that I want people to remember what I've done for them here in Massachusetts the last six years," Weld says.

Kerry has been hurt by Boston Globe reports that he got free and cut-rate housing from lobbyists and developers. A Weld ad shows the building and declares: "John Kerry lived rent-free in this luxury Washington apartment, owned by a lobbying firm executive."

Kerry has shot back at Weld. "Why did you veto health care for kids that don't have it? That's an ethical issue," Kerry said in a recent debate. "Why do you veto student loans for kids who want to go to college? That's an ethical issue for the working person."


Kerry campaigns hard as a Clinton Democrat. His new signs bear both names. He had a much bigger crowd outside their most recent debate, many of them public service employees. But City Hall workers, mobilized for Kennedy two years ago, are less active this time.

Massachusetts is still a place where people care about politics, where crowds come out to boo and cheer at debates. But it is not the Massachusetts it was a generation ago. The place has changed.

Walter Robinson of the Globe talked about the changes. "Independents are now a plurality, almost a majority of the electorate," Robinson said. "Democrats have slipped below 40 percent. The state has lost a lot of blue-collar jobs and gained a lot of high-tech jobs, so the voters are more entrepreneurial in their thinking and more independent-minded."

It's a real election, between two men with differing views, speaking to voters who listen and care. It's the kind of election Massachusetts' embattled farmers, the Americans who fired the shot heard round the world a couple of centuries ago, would have liked.

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