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Mayoral Election Reveals Key Players in New Council

By Michael J. Ring

Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio may have captured the Mayor’s Office, but he was by no means the only victor to emerge from a protracted battle for the largely ceremonial position. Two months of politicking and dealing created as many winners as losers.

One obvious group of winners are the Independent councillors -- David Maher, Michael Sullivan, Tim Toomey, and Galluccio. In addition to Galluccio’s election as mayor, Maher won the office of vice-mayor, allowing this bloc of four moderates to control both leadership positions on the City Council.

By contrast, the liberal Cambridge Civic Association showed signs of a continued decline in the mayoral proceedings. The election was the latest step in the slow but steady march of the CCA to irrelevance. Once the most powerful political organization in the city, the CCA is rapidly approaching the status of laughingstock. The CCA and the other progressives on the council hold a majority of the seats but failed to elect a mayor from their ranks.

Throughout the proceedings, CCA endorsee Kathleen Born sought the office of mayor. On early ballots she was able to hold the support of her two fellow CCA councillors, Jim Braude and Henrietta Davis. On the fourth ballot, Braude switched his vote to Ken Reeves, a progressive unaffiliated with the CCA. On the fifth and deciding ballot, both Braude and Davis abandoned progressive candidates altogether in voting for the Independent Galluccio.

Following the election, former CCA member Reeves compared this election to the equally embarrassing loss one year ago where the CCA failed to rally behind Katherine Triantifillou’s bid for mayor. “It’s very clear that two alleged progressives did something other than progressive,” Reeves said later in reference to Davis and Braude. “If I was a CCA I would be hiding.”

In a written statement released after the election, Davis said that she did not vote for Born on the final ballot because she felt she could not necessarily count on votes pledged by Reeves and Decker and because she wished to honor a commitment of a vote to Galluccio. “Were those two votes real?” she asked in the memo.

Braude said his defection was motivated by a desire to see a mayor elected in a timely manner.

The once dominant Reeves, who has seen his support slide in recent elections, was able to profit from the CCA’s loss. As the senior member of the council, Reeves executed the duties of acting mayor until a mayor was elected. That exposure may raise his profile in the community.

Reeves called his term as acting mayor “seven weeks of uncompensated very hard work” and said he was satisfied that he had done his utmost to advance his progressive agenda and elect a progressive mayor.

During the proceedings, Reeves came within two votes of being elected mayor, winning the votes of unaffiliated progressive Marjorie Decker and CCA defectee Braude in addition to his own. Reeves demonstrated he can still command the attention of the council’s progressive members, and given the continued slide of the CCA, Reeves may very well emerge as the leader of this council’s liberal bloc.

On the losing end of the spectrum is Born, leader of the CCA faction. As witnessed in the mayoral proceedings, that honor has become roughly akin to being named captain of the Titanic. On the deciding ballot her two CCA charges deserted the HMS Born and stampeded for the lifeboats, and any chances of Born winning the office of vice-mayor as a consolation prize were sunk when the councillor was able to secure only one vote for the position -- her own.

Another CCA loser is Davis, who crossed CCA lines to cast a crucial vote for Galluccio, apparently in return for the new mayor’s support for her vice-mayoral bid. Davis failed to win five votes, however, and her bid quickly fizzled when Toomey, who initially supported Davis for vice-mayor, changed his vote to Maher.

Interest groups in the Cambridge community also stood to gain or lose ground in the mayoral battle. On the winning side are development advocates. Galluccio is widely considered to be the most pro-business of the nine councillors, and Maher was only one of two councillors to oppose the Larkin petition, which temporarily prohibits large developments in East Cambridge. Galluccio voted for the Larkin petition, but not before extracting an amendment exempting two blocks on Binney Street.

Rent-control advocates, however, were dealt another blow by Tuesday morning’s election. Their cause was a steep uphill battle from the start -- the return of rent control would require state approval, and Governor Paul Cellucci would likely frown on such a petition. With a mayor or vice-mayor who supports rent control, advocates could have raised awareness of the issue and built public pressure for a support for control returns. Those advocates are not likely to be pleased with the pro-business team of Galluccio and Maher at the helm of the City Council.

Another big winner is Representative Alice Wolf (D), whose State House district comprises North and West Cambridge. Galluccio, a resident of the district, has made it no secret that he covets Wolf’s seat, and the two have sparred before for the seat in contentious Democratic primaries. With the election of Galluccio as mayor, he will turn his attention to full time to the government of the city, leaving Wolf to face a much weaker opponent -- or no opponent at all.

While the vote swaps, defections and coalitions of the election process may seem somewhat excessive, perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the election is how the race for a primarily ceremonial position could yield so much sound and fury.

Frank Dabek contributed to the reporting of this story