Monday, February 16, 2009

Ted Kennedy: His First Election

Ted Kennedy: His First Election

By Jerome Grossman
An interesting sidebar to Ted Kennedy's inspiring political history harks back to his first run for the Senate in 1962. It was, as some labeled it, a "battle of the clans": Opposing Kennedy in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary was Edward McCormack, nephew of House Speaker John McCormack; Kennedy's Republican opponent was Yankee scion George Cabot Lodge; and on the left was Independent peace candidate Harvard Prof. H. Stuart Hughes, chair of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and grandson of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.

I was Campaign Manager and Chester Hartman was the organizer of the massive signature drive required to place Hughes on the ballot. Hughes needed 72,000 signatures, a purposely prohibitive number in that era of McCarthyism and nobody in fact had tried to reach it since the law had first been passed.

In this talented field, Hughes polled 50,013 votes, 2.3% of the votes cast. However, we collected a startling 149,000 signatures in ten weeks for a "peace candidate." The Cuban Missile Crisis arrived in October just before the election. With the integrity that was his hallmark, Hughes went against the popular hysteria: he accused President Kennedy of acting over hastily in imposing the blockade of Cuba, of bypassing the United Nations, and unnecessarily stirring up an atmosphere of national emergency. His position cost Hughes thousands of votes.

In the process we built a town-by-town organization all over the state, a structure that remains in place today. A clear result has been the election over recent decades of so many progressive voices to the state's first-rate Congressional delegation, including Michael Harrington, Father Robert Drinan, Gerry Studds, Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, Ed Markey, John Tierney, Michael Capuano and John Kerry.
The Hughes campaign built the strongest statewide peace movement in the country, a movement that changed the face and reputation of Massachusetts politics.

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