Chet Atkins
100 Main Street

Age 45

Interviewed November 8, 1993

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer

MP3 Audio

Chester G. Atkins

I was at Antioch College in Ohio in the late '60s, and had been very involved in anti-war activities and community organizing and ran a congressional campaign, a losing congressional campaign, for a Democratic candidate in a very Republican district in southern Ohio. I had wanted very much to run for office. I had starting working on presidential campaigns and had sort of worked my way down the political ladder on things. Actually I got college credits for running for office. Antioch is a very experimental school, so I graduated from Antioch with those credits.

I became aware that John McGlennon was planning on running for Congress which meant that he would be leaving that State Representative seat which was Concord and Acton. I decided to run and be a candidate. What had happened that year, 1970, was that it was still part of the watershed years. The watershed year had come in the elections in 1968, and it was essentially political changes and the shift of political power catching up to demographic changes. Historically, Concord had been a Republican community and had never elected a Democrat in the State legislature from Concord. In that State Representative seat, it had always been a Republican seat since there had been a Republican party around the time of the Civil War. What had happened was, and the sort of peculiarity of Massachusetts, the Republican party had been the party that was far more liberal on issues such as personal freedoms. Birth control had been a critical and a very divisive issue in the '50s in the State. It had been the liberal party on issues of race and of equality and of civil rights, and so there was a lot of the old abolitionists activity, if you will, related to the Republican party going way, way back, and that combined with a more conservative view in economics and also combined with the cultural thing.

Politics had been very, very ethnic in Massachusetts in the early part of the 20th century. The Yankee party was the Republican party. There were very, very few sort of "old New Englanders," if you will, Yankee types who were Democrats. The Democratic party was the party of the folks who had come in starting in the 1840s in the early waves of immigration, and there were just huge issues around that. All that changed very clearly after the World War II. There were a lot of professors and a lot of people from around the country, a mobility you hadn't seen before, who were coming in and teaching at MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Boston University - people in the knowledge-based industries, and many of those people were Democrats. They were Democrats coming out of the whole New Deal experience, if you will, and then the second World War. It had taken a while for things to settle in the town, and the Democratic party was always the party, and sort of viewed as the party, of the cities. The Republicans were the party of the suburbs. Concord was really a rural area after the war.

In the election of 1968, and I think it really related to the Vietnam War, there was a massive shift. There had been a split in the Democratic party in Concord. The Democratic party was a stronghold in West Concord, a stronghold among people who worked at MCI-Concord, people who were federal workers who worked in the post office and so forth. It was a small group and there was strong ethnic differentiation at that time that the party was heavily, heavily Irish. Of course, there was the split that a lot of the Italians had because they were frozen out of the Democratic party, had joined and become part of the Republican party and that really resulted in the successful candidacy of John Volpe as Governor on the Republican ticket. In the 1968 election, the anti-war movement was very strong in Concord, and there was an uneasy melding, but a melding of the sort of traditional Democratic, very minority core, and the sort of more intellectual, cerebral, liberal Democratic core that were many of the people who had moved out to town after World War II and in the '50s. So 1968 was the turning point on that.

In the election of 1970, John McGlennon leaving was sort of a perfect opportunity for the Democrats. I discovered shortly after I started exploring my candidacy that there was a very distinguished person who was also seeking the Democratic nomination. That was Jerry Bush, who is now a professor at Brandeis at the Heller School, who had been an Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Kennedy administration under Willard Wirtz, who was senior consultant at Arthur D. Little, a PhD., someone who had the dream resume for Concord to run. He was married, a couple of kids, a very personable person, etc., etc., and I think he had really been recruited by the Democratic Town Committee. I think 33 of the 35 Town Committee members supported his candidacy. People just assumed that he would win, that he would get the Democratic nomination hands down.

I came in and I was ten years or so younger than Jerry Bush, had virtually no experience to speak of, hadn't really even graduated from college, and started running. I ran my race on a door-to-door basis. I had knocked on every door in town twice, and actually lived at that time and was on the ballot from Acton even though I had grown up in Concord. I lost the primary election by a couple hundred votes in Concord but won by a pretty good margin in Acton. I essentially just was able to outwork Jerry Bush and take him by surprise. I've gotten to know Jerry very well since then, he's a good friend, and we often joke about who really won that election.

I ran on a platform of dealing with the sort of patronage politics that dominated the state house and it dominated the state Democratic party. I ran on a strong program of reforming the civil service system, which was a terrible problem at that time, and reforming state purchasing practices. There was a very, very strong base for all of that with the local League of Women Voters that was really a power to be reckoned with, probably stronger in Concord in sort of political terms than either of the political parties. At that time you had a very, very large number of women who were highly educated and who were at home raising children. It was really the very beginning of the sort of large numbers of women going into the workforce, and so there was this extraordinary reservoir of talent and energy, a lot of them devoted time to political activities through groups like the League of Women Voters.

My Republican opponent was George Rohan, who runs the South Bridge Boat House, and George was a kind of a classic Republican, small businessman, and ran on that basis. By the time the general election came around, George really hadn't had the kind of exposure that I had had or the kind of energy and momentum that I had from the primary and the primary win over Jerry Bush. George really was wiped out by that kind of aggressive campaign and by the fact that the demographics in town had changed.

My father was a die-hard Stevenson Democrat as was my mother. The family beyond that had been quite Republican with the exception of my great-grandfather who was one of the few of the Boston Yankees who sided with James Michael Curley, and actually was a candidate for the U.S. Senate right after World War I against Henry Cabot Lodge.

I was born in Switzerland and grew up in my early years and went to elementary school outside Montreal. Just before the Civil War my great-great-grandfather had a farm out on Monument Street, where Hutchins Farm is now. The family had some roots in Concord though nobody in the family had lived in Concord between the time since my great-great-grandfather and my parents. I grew up on Monument Street just across from the Old North Bridge in the Great Meadows area. I think one of the things that happens when you're that close to history is you tend to be unmindful of it and it becomes very mundane. We had a sort of a hobby farm there. We had sheep and hogs and cattle and occasionally we had a fence that was not totally cattle resistant, and the cattle would get out and go across the street toward the Old North Bridge. My job was to go get them and run them back up to our property. The park service who had just taken over the Old North Bridge was not particularly happy with stray cattle down there which tended to scare some of the more urban visitors.

Paul and Gen Counihan were really the organizers and the folks who made that marriage between the sort of older more traditional Democrats and the newer more liberal Democrats. Paul was very active in 1968 and put together a new Town Committee slate for that.

By 1968 there had been an awful lot of areas in town that had been developed and there was a lot of growth. A lot of it came from people who came in to work for Raytheon, or for the universities, or for Lincoln Laboratories, and places like that. A lot of the folks were independents. Concord has been a very independent community. They were far more open to voting Democratic, and you also had a core of liberal Democrats and a lot of them were associated with various universities.

When I got to the State House, it was kind of a rude awakening for me. I had been nurtured in very ideological politics and nurtured in a very genteel political environment in Concord. Essentially what I found was a politics that was dominated by patronage, a politics that was very much personal for the politicians, personal struggles over jobs and power, and power rather than a larger fight over ideas and principles.

My first experience after winning the Democratic primary was being invited to a Democratic special meeting of those who had won the primary in Middlesex County, and it was quite a shock going through that experience. After this little lunch, there was a curtain set up and a small card table and we had our picture taken with the Speaker of the House and then stepped behind the curtain, and we were asked to sign a pledge card, and then handed a check for our election campaigns. I guess I was rather surprised in having run my campaign as much against the Democratic leadership in the House as against the Republicans. At this time the House had gotten a big issue that had been pushed by the League of Women Voters and that kind of confirmed every worst fear that I might have had about how things really happen on Beacon Hill - the very personal nature of the politics and the immense power of patronage. The Speaker of the House was David Bartley at that time. I never really got along very well with Dave in my two years in the House, I got along with him much better later. He was somebody that stylisticly worked in that world in the State House but really made very significant contributions. He was the one who pushed the Chapter 766, the Special Education law, and really a number of breakthroughs. It was an incredible dichotomy for him, on the one hand, and maybe the story of Massachusetts politics, very significant breakthroughs and reforms in education, in health care, and caring for most vulnerable people, and on the other hand just some sort of a method and style of politics that was really, I think, resented by a lot of people in the state. He would pass the 766 law that profoundly reformed education and had an enormous effect on people's lives. I know both of our kids have gone through the 766 program in the Concord schools, they had the same dyslexia that I have, and on the other hand Dave's more known for fighting against the House cut and eventually losing on it -- that is reducing the number of members in the House.

In the two years that I was in the House, I was very much a kind of angry young man who really didn't have much contact with the leadership, fought against them on a number of things. Then two years later in 1972 I was elected to the Senate, and when I got elected to the Senate, I was appointed chairman of the Public Service Committee. I was then in a position where it was very clear to me that in order to be effective I had to understand the pressures and the priorities that other people were under, and that it wasn't that their politics was a lesser politics than mine, it was that their constituents expected different things from them than mine expected from me. That their constituents were far more focused on politics as a means of upward social and economic mobility, a place where you could cut through bureaucracy and have services provided that needed to be provided, and get a helping hand - a summer job for your kid, getting a child in the state school for the retarded, getting a grandparent into a nursing home. You were very much for the people of those communities. They, the politicians, were the enabler, they were the human face to a fairly impersonal bureaucracy.

The Senate was much smaller than the House so you had much greater impact. Most of the Democrats in the Senate were committee chairman so it was a very different environment than the House. Essentially the Democratic leadership had the votes in the Senate to do pretty much what they wanted, so people really didn't call on your vote very often. There wasn't a hard sense of party discipline and if you don't vote the party line, you'll be punished, that I think exists in the House.

I was elected to the Senate in 1972 and stayed until 1984. Because of that length of time I got to know people that we associate with Beacon Hill politics like Billy Bulger. He is an extraordinarily bright person and I think a very complex person who is greatly misunderstood. He has become demonized by the media and in turn he has demonized the media. He is somebody who has a strong sense of values, a very strong sense of ideology, and often times people don't appreciate that. He is not just some hack politician. He has this clear sense of things that he believes in, and often times those things and the curiousity of it is, they tend to be on the social side on questions like abortion rights or affirmative action issues and tend to be very conservative. His ideology is certainly very different from mine in ideological priorities, but he has a set of values that in terms of loyalty, of family and of community, that are very similar to mine in many ways. He appointed me as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and I served in that position for six years, from 1978 to 1984, and that was a very productive relationship for me. We had the areas where we differed, and I have to say that he was always respectful of those differences and we would go our separate ways on issues like choice. On the other hand we worked together on a large number of issues that I think made profound differences in people's lives in the state.

We made significant reforms and I believe really changed the budgeting process in the state, and for all the image of Bulger as a tyrant and as a patronage person, a number of the reforms that we made were to limit the power of the legislature to get involved in state personnel matters, and to rewrite the budget process so the legislature was not so focused on micromanagement and rather was focused on larger and clearer issues of policy and of setting policy and direction. There was a number of things we were able to do to both reform and bring efficiency to government agencies on one hand, and on the other hand to really focus efforts such as the early intervention program for children with various kinds of disabilities. We were able to set up extraordinary number of programs for prenatal care, major strides in health care and preventive health care for low income people, set up some model national programs on nutrition, set up a number of programs on the environment, the biggest since the New Deal for open space acquisition and for preservation of our landscape in Massachusetts, the most aggressive program in the country for the support of the arts and making the arts accessible in communities, particularly in urban communities and the school kids. Major changes were made to improve and establish centers of excellence in the public higher education system. We adopted most of the League of Women Voters issues. Their big program over the late '60s and early '70s was the fiscal program to deal with the inequities of the property tax and the inequities in educational opportunity and we enacted virtually all the League of Women Voters fiscal agenda. In fact, we hired the woman who ran the fiscal policy through the Ways & Means Committee to work on that and she was in the unfortunate position of having spent a great deal of time setting up this program and working with it and then spent the next six years enacting it into law. We were able to set up some major changes and major reforms in the state mental health system and to really try to improve the process of deinstitutionalization and assure that people got services. We set up some of the early national pioneering programs for the homeless and the first state supported programs in the country for battered women. This is back in the 1970s before it was the kind of issue that it is now. I could go on and on about a number of things. I feel very positive about the relationship we had and the things we were able to do to make a difference in people's lives particularly people who are the most vulnerable and who are at the greatest risk. The curious thing is that almost none of that, because it is done quietly, it is done collaboratively, it is not a source of great confrontation, gets covered in the media. A lot of those reforms just happened very quietly and made profound differences in people's lives, but it was the sort of pettiness, the fights, the personal issues that's been the focus of a lot of the media coverage of things.

I think it is fair to say that I've always had a troubled relationship with the media. I think most of that is because I started out as the ultimate outsider and became the portrayal of the ultimate insider, and to me the outsider and insider images during that period of time, that was a means to an end for programs to carry out things that my constituents felt were important, and it was that whole question of style versus substance. The media over the last decade has been focused on really deifying the outsider or the person who comes in and is going to tear down the system and go against the powers that be, rather than the person who goes in and quietly tries to make change and to make a difference. It is focused on doing that to the exclusion of some of the issues of political style or process. If there was a great mistake that I made in my career, it would be that I was always far more focused on the substance, getting something done and getting the right things done, than I was on appearances. I have to say that the Senate and the way it worked, is a far more democratic institution now than it was then, but when I was chairman of Ways & Means, power was centered in a few people's hands. It was a very autocratic institution and I was part of running or keeping that going. On the one hand I have a record that I think is unparalleled in terms of reform and change and improvement in State services and on the other hand, it is not a healthy way long term. I think we see some of the results of it now.

I was never one who either adored the spotlight or personal attention, I've always been somewhat awkward with that, or someone who enjoyed the exercise of power for its own sake. But as chairman of the Ways & Means Committe, it was a great feeling to have things happen, to set a program for housing and for community residences for the mentally retarded, and to set up a program of supported work for these people and then to go out for the graduation of the first group of people who are in a community residence going off to work every day, earning an income and have the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes with that, and who two short years earlier had been in a state school and living in just horrendous conditions. It was a wonderful feeling to see and be a part of that and to know that you helped make that possible for these people.

In 1984 Paul Tsongas announced that he had cancer and was retiring from government. Jim Shannon announced that he was going to run for the U.S. Senate for Tsongas's seat and that left the congressional seat open. This Concord area was the very edge of the congressional district and not the center of the district that had been based in the Merrimack Valley in Lowell and Lawrence. I had done six years and I had done an extraordinary amount in the State Senate and it wasn't as much of an intellectual challenge for me. I had originally, when I started out in politics, planned that I would serve in the State Legislature and move up into a leadership position such as Senate president, and then go from there and run statewide probably for Governor. When the congressional seat came open, I talked with the Senate president, Billy Bulger, about his plans and how long he had expected to be there and he told me he expected to be there quite a while. So with really very strong encouragement from my wife, I decided to make the race for Congress. I had been so focused for that fourteen years in State politics and State government and State issues that it was quite a change for me even though I had started out focused on foreign policy issues and national issues, I went off to something very different. It was a very exciting time to go into Congress, and it was a tremendous change for me in terms of the kinds of issues that I was focused on. The opponent in that race in the Democratic primary was the State Senator from Lowell, Phil Shea, and then in the general election a lawyer from Metheun, Greg Hiatt.

The election was relatively close. The primary was quite close and the primary was a sort of great geographic battle. Shea won with huge margins in Lowell and in the Lowell suburbs. I won with huge margins down here in Concord, Wayland, Weston and Lincoln. Then we broke pretty close to even in Lawrence. I was able to take decent margins in western towns such as Harvard, Groton and Ayer. I was able to beat him, but it was close.

It was a very different district, a much more urban district, a district that was far less liberal than I was, and it was the middle '80s and everybody was getting rich and didn't want to focus or deal with the kinds of issues that I was involved with at least on a national level. Issues such as reforming nutrition programs and issues of trying to deal with those folks who were left out in the economic growth, environmental issues and programs, and also some of the foreign policy issues, particularly in Southeast Asia. It turns out that in the city of Lowell we had the two largest Cambodian communities. Early in the 1980s Lowell had a huge influx of Cambodian and Laotian refugees. I got very involved in U.S. policy in Cambodia and U.S. refugee policy. Not one of the very popular issues of our day but something where I felt I was able to make a significant difference. The U.S. policy in Southeast Asia and the environmental policy were the two big interests of mine at the time.

That was a time when the Reagan administration was really just destroying our public lands and while there are very few public lands in Massachusetts, they are part of our national heritage for all of us and vitally important for the ecological health of this country. I was involved in fighting and in changing some of the policies of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. We had some significant successes. It's always hard and it's frustrating at a time like that when the country and the president are going in one direction, and you are fighting against that direction and sort of three-quarters of what you are doing is just causing bad things not to happen. It's hard to take a lot of satisfaction out of that.

They had policy to clear cut vast amounts of timber in the Pacific Northwest. I was one of the authors of the plan that stopped a considerable portion of that and gave the environmental community increased capacity to go into court to stop it. They had really destroyed a lot of the grasslands in the far west by crazy grazing programs. We made some progress in reform. Of course, that's an issue that today as we speak is very hot. I spent a lot of my time on the issue of the control the tobacco industry had over the economy and U.S. government policy. I particularly focused on tobacco and the U.S. tobacco exports. It is really extraordinary what had happened over that decade of the '80s that the U.S. smoking behavior changed dramatically and there were fewer smokers and the older smokers were dying off. Here's an industry that kills 400,000 of the best customers every year. That's the number of deaths related to smoking every year. They had to find new customers so they went abroad and they used U.S. foreign policy, U.S. economic money abroad to really coerce people into opening up markets and to force other companies to change their domestic laws to allow advertising of cigarettes on TV. It was just extraordinary. The U.S. was threatening people with trade sanctions if they wouldn't allow advertising for cigarettes that's illegal in this country. It's just an absolute disgrace, and we were able to block that. We weren't totally successful,but the foreign policy has changed and the control of tobacco in directing U.S. trade policy is far less. It is still far too great, but still far less today than it was when we started that effort.

Going back to when I was elected in 1970, Frank Sargent was Governor. Sargent was a wonderful governor. He did some extraordinary things in the State. I worked closely with him in the governor's office, particularly when I was a State Representative and in my early years in the State Senate, particularly in human service and environmental programs. Then Mike Dukakis was elected and I was very active in his first election. Then I was very disappointed in his inability to get control of the state budget process and state spending, and Dukakis lost in 1978, and Ed King was elected. I was at that point chairman of the Ways & Means Committee and became chairman when Ed King became Governor. He was a very conservative Democrat. Fortunately for me, King didn't care too much about the details and really wasn't aware of a lot of the details of state policy making, so we were able to really enact under this very conservative governor a lot of changes in State policy that were opposed to his ideology and in many instances with his being unaware of it. Then I was involved in the re-election of Mike Dukakis and his comeback, and I was very active and I was really worried about the Democratic party under Ed King. Dukakis was re-elected and we were allies on a lot of issues but there was always a kind of uneasy relationship, if you will. A lot of things that later came to be Dukakis's own doing, I had fought as chairman of Ways & Means. I think they thought I should have toed the line and do whatever the Governor wanted as a Democratic chairman of Ways & Means. I had a strong sense that they were getting us into spending commitments that were not cost effective. I had always taken a great deal of pride and it sort of became my trademark as both expansion of programs of high priority and efficient and effective programs on the one hand, and on the other hand cutting back on waste and abuse and assuring that there was real fiscal credibility. Unfortunately, that was ultimately Dukakis's own doing. But I think he made some very significant and positive contributions to the State. A lot of them have been forgotten. In his first administration he was very much a loner in his style of governing, but not in his second administration. Then he was very collaborative, almost to a fault.

I was interested in the Governor's position at one point, and when I ran that was my initial interest as a goal that I was looking at. But I ultimately as a result of really two things - one, my choice of taking an inside role and being more effective in the legislature really precluded that, and the second, my decision to focus heavily on national issues in Congress and focus heavily on U.S. foreign policy and refugee policy. That was extraordinarily unpopular and still is but something I felt was important.

It was a difficult transition from going to be right at the locus of power in the State Legislature to being almost irrelevant in a 435 member House. What I did was to pick and choose certain areas where I had built some expertise, where I felt I could make a difference. That's part of the balance that what you wind up doing is you get active in the things that are important for your district and to your constituents. You spend a portion of your time working on those things, both those broad national things and to make sure that you are involved there even though you may not be the one shaping the national policy, and then you get involved in the whole struggle over the distribution of goods and services, making sure that there is funding for the third harbor tunnel, making sure there is funding for the clean up of Boston harbor, those kinds of things. It is always difficult, that fine line between sort of the role in Congress of being the distribution of those federal resources rather than just being a pork barreler. Then there was the whole issue of focusing on the issues that were broad national and international issues that may not be at the top of the priority list for your constituents but where as a freshman member and as a fairly new member you really had capacity to make change. I don't think that U.S. export of cigarettes was on the top ten of very many of my constituents priorities, but on the other hand, I think there was broad support for that. That was an area where I could focus and could really have a substantial impact in setting policy.

The highlights of my eight years in Congress were my service on the Budget Committee and our ability to change many of the priorities of the Reagan administration. There was a need to cut back on the gross bulemic defense style that Reagan had established and to really focus on some increase on money for education, for college scholarships, and nutrition programs. One program that I helped push and spent a lot of my time on was a program called Spouse Improvishment. It actually started from work with the Villers Foundation at that time, the foundation that was started by Phil and Kate Villers. It was a program where if one of an older couple had Alzheimer's disease that wanted to get treatment for that person, the other one would not have to spend down their income into poverty. You had this double situation where if you had Alzheimer's and then the spouse that didn't have it was forced into poverty and lost their home, etc. So that one set of accomplishments I felt very proud of. I felt very proud of our success in changing and effecting some of the U.S. policy in Cambodia and Southeast Asia to a policy that was more humane. When I started out in Congress, the U.S. government was under the table providing enormous support for Pol Pot. Here's a man that was responsible for the deaths of a million of his countrymen, one of the most brutual genicidal fanatics in history and the formal U.S. policy was to supply indirect support for Pol Pot so he could topple a nominally communist government. It was absolutely insane. I think I was able to make a difference in that policy and some changes and to bring the policy to light. I was able to do some significant things in environmental policy, in particular in respect to public lands. I am proud of those accomplishments. The work fighting the tobacco lobby. Also some of the work here more locally. We had a terrible fight over Minuteman Park. It was just an insane policy of expansion of the park of which the town really had no say in. It was a very difficult and brutual process but I think we finally got a master plan for the park that will both highlight this park and the experience of the start of the American Revolution, but also will do it in a way that will maintain and help us maintain the character of Concord and provide minimal disruption to the town and the people who live here. The work that I did on the expansion of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Walden Woods and the Concord-Sudbury-Assabet River basin, the work with the establishment and the growth of the Lowell National Historic Park; it has had significant success in explaining the history of the American Revolution. It's fun to watch my kids and the other local kids in Concord go through a whole study section on that and then go up and use that national park to understand that part of our history. Those are some of the successes that I was most proud of.

I found Washington to be a stimulating environment for the first six years. The last two years were really a miserable time. There was tremendous public anger, and understandable, at the failure of the government to meet people's needs, to deal with the economic crisis that this country was facing. There was a huge anger at Congress, and then a kind of press feeding frenzy on a number of sort of peripheral or, in the larger scheme of things, minor issues but which came because of the way that House leadership had handled that became sort of symbols of the disconnectedness of Congress with people's lives and the reality of people's lives. At the time Tom Foley was the Speaker. I had been involved as a member of the Ethics Committee and it was very, very difficult with the issue of what Jim Wright had previously done, and I ultimately wound up siding with the Republicans in creating a majority in the Ethics Committee in the more serious charges against Speaker Wright. It was something that I felt that was necessary to do to maintain the integrity of the Congress.

The greatest frustration in working in Congress was that Congress moves so slowly, and it is so hard to get an issue resolved. You spend four and five years on an issue before you finally get some progress. Also there is frustration in that there are so many demands now on a member of Congress that you spend your time running around here and there, raising money for your reelection, doing media interviews, meeting with local groups, etc., etc., but you don't have the kind of time to really understand issues the way you should and to focus in and develop the kind of expertise that's necessary to make policy.

With the current proposal for term limits, I come from the position of having been very opposed to term limits to one now that I am ambivalent about them. I think term limits are probably a fact of life, and I don't think the public is to be denied on that, and maybe it will work. Maybe they will work because people will have a limited period of time to get something done, power will be open, will flow more freely, so that you won't have to serve those long periods of apprenticeship, maybe you'll attract people who bring to the office more life experiences and more expertise and can step in from day one and be in a position that they know they only have a short period of time to make a difference, make a mark. They may come in with a very clear agenda and a willingness to take risk that oftentimes people don't have now.

Taking time from the work of Congress to campaign provides the thing that roots and grounds you in reality. Reality in some extent to disconnect things that people focused on in their lives to the matters that Congress is working with, and how do you build the connection between those two. Ultimately Congress only succeeds and members of Congress only succeed if the public has a sense of what Congress is doing is improving their lives.

In the last election in 1992 with the redistricting, I lost a lot of my strongest communities, Weston, Lincoln, Framingham, and this added a lot of new territory that was far more conservative such as Billerica, Tewksbury, and some of the other communities up there, and the net effect of all of that. But it wasn't just the redistricting and I was somewhat of a target of the redistricting. I guess some of the ironies and the curiosities of my career is that I've been both a insider but never a real insider and clearly the redistricting was designed to try to make my re-election as difficult as possible, but there was also a number of other things that went on, just general anger with Congress and geographical divisions in this district and enormous negatives that I had built up with my advocacy for the refugee policy in the Cambodian community in the Lowell area. Ultimately I lost in the re-election but in the larger scheme of things, it's probably a very healthy thing both for me and my family personally. I'm in a position now where I have the freedom and I'm able to in my business, to focus on some of the issues that I think are critical, and to not have to deal with all the headaches and the aggravations of running for office.

Redistricting is done by the State Legislature and the Governor. It was really Governor Weld who was particularly just looking to create some mischief and defeat as many Democrats as possible. The redistricting proposal that they came up with, not so much in my district but statewide in order to get what they wanted to do, was pretty ridiculous. They divided communities. They've got one district that they call the Ivy League District that stretches from Princeton in the Wachusetts area all the way down to Dartmouth which is next to New Bedford. It was a very political thing and a very partisan thing on the part of Governor Weld. Ultimately when it came right down to it, I didn't really have any strong defenders or advocates in the State Legislature. That was fine. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. I think the redistricting was unfortunate for the people of Massachusetts. It sort of indicated, not so much in my district but in other districts, the power of just raw politics with a total disregard for communities or for individuals, just strictly a partisan purpose. I think Weld is extraordinarily cynical that way in what he does. But that was that. Now I'm in consulting.