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[talking politics]

Heavy Metal (continued)

Real-estate lawyer Lawrence DiCara concurs. " Steve Lynch spoke at a meeting at the Boston Study Group [at the Harvard Club] and has spoken at many other similar groups for years, " he says, referring to an informal group that hosts a monthly speaker on an issue of local interest. As the consultant to the House Redistricting Committee, DiCara is neutral in the race. But he says of Lynch: " We know who he is. It’s natural that business leaders will support somebody they know and feel comfortable with. "

Former Boston city councilor Michael McCormack is also backing Lynch. McCormack, now a downtown lawyer, met Lynch while representing a real-estate-development company that was building 700 rental units in South Boston. " I thought he was professional, fair, and my experience with him was very positive, " he says.

Beyond Lynch’s efforts to cultivate business leaders, there is his mythology. It might seem surprising that a former ironworker, endorsed by the AFL-CIO, is the candidate of choice for the Boston business establishment. Indeed, it would be ironic in any city in America except for Boston. Boston is a city that cherishes its myths, and this doesn’t just mean stories of Paul Revere and the Revolutionary War. In Boston, the prevailing story is how the Irish came to the city with nothing and battled their way up against the Yankees to gain control of the city. Some of these local leaders may be one or two generations removed from working-class backgrounds, and the self-educated Lynch reminds them of their roots. Lynch’s candidacy reaffirms the image many of these people have of themselves.

That’s a point emphasized by Boston Globe writer Maureen Dezell, author of Irish America: Coming into Clover — the Evolution of a People and a Culture (Doubleday, 2001). " One of the themes in my book is ‘Never forget where you came from,’ particularly in Boston. There’s a tremendous identification with South Boston, " she says. " Lynch is the quintessential Irish candidate. He’s smart. He’s connected. He’s pragmatic. "

THE SUPPORT of downtown insiders does not an election make, as Jacques and others point out. " In the final analysis, the great part of our system is that each person gets one vote, " says Jacques. " I am far more pleased by the support I am getting from the elderly woman in Randolph and the recent college grad in Stoughton than this debate over the Boston power circle. " Jacques can say this partly because she doesn’t have to worry about raising money from many of these insiders. Unlike Lynch, Jacques can rely on EMILY’s List and pro-choice groups to help her raise money. (Kate Michaelman, the national director of the National Abortion Rights Action League, was in Boston to endorse Jacques on Tuesday.)

And it’s also true, of course, that both Jacques and Joyce have been able to peel off some supporters from the downtown establishment. Joyce, for example, received $2000 from Jay M. Cashman, a major Big Dig contractor. By June 30, he’d raised $447,770. Jacques, whose campaign now says it has raised more than $500,000, has two recognized " insiders " co-chairing her campaign effort — John Cullinane, the founder of Cullinet Computers and a William Bulger ally, and lawyer Gerard Doherty, an old Kennedy hand. While both boast formidable skills and contacts, political sources say they are not as tip-top as they’ve been in the past.

" We’ve been in the race a little more than a month. A lot of the folks helping me are the so-called Boston power circle, " Jacques told me recently, having just come from a press event advocating support for stem-cell research. (Both President George Bush and Lynch have muddled stands in this area, she says.) She pointed out that ordinary people, such as those who stood with her at the stem-cell press conference, are very much with her. But when I suggested that the city insiders don’t care about stem-cell research as much as they care about keeping the gravy train flowing, she abruptly changed her tone. " If that’s why they’re supporting Steve Lynch, I say good luck to them, " she said. " I’m glad that it’s not my reputation that I need to be financially supported by somebody for them to get some support from me. If that’s Senator Lynch’s reputation, it’s one I’m glad I do not share. "

But for all her bravado, there’s little getting around the fact that neither she nor Joyce has truly captured the imagination of the city’s insiders. Much of Joyce’s financial support, according to Federal Election Commission documents, comes from his hometown of Milton. And much of Jacques’s financial support will come from national groups and local " outsiders. " (At Tuesday’s NARAL event, Jacques noted that she had raised the bulk of her money locally before Michaelman’s announcement, which she called " the frosting on the cake. " )

As far as the O’Neills and the Regans and the other big-shots are concerned, there’s no " New Boston " — at least not in the sense of a new power base. (Well, maybe there is, but it’s more or less confined to former Miamian Marty Baron on Morrissey Boulevard.) In the real world, Boston’s the same parochial town it’s always been — a city where one of the power crowd’s favorite restaurants, No. 9 Park, is owned by the cousin of the power crowd’s favorite candidate, Stephen Lynch.

Seth Gitell can be reached at sgitell[a]

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Issue Date: August 16-23, 2001

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