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CHAPTER 6 Kennedy Man I first became tagged as a “Kennedy man” shortly after two other longtime Kennedy men from Massachusetts, Larry O’Brien and Torby Macdonald , showed up in Annapolis in February 1960. It was the middle of the thirty-day General Assembly session, and I was in my sixth year in the House of Delegates. Torbert H. “Torby” Macdonald, a Massachusetts congressional representative since 1954, had been John F. Kennedy’s roommate at Harvard , usher at his wedding, fellow PT boat commander in the South Pacific, and close personal friend. Lawrence F. “Larry” O’Brien Jr., who with Kennedy aides Dave Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell would become known as JFK’s “Irish Mafia,” had directed Kennedy’s successful Senate campaigns in Massachusetts in 1952 and 1958 and would begin to organize and direct his national presidential campaign later that year. In the cold winter of 1960, O’Brien and Macdonald were trolling the political streams of the Maryland General Assembly hoping to catch some supporters for their progressive young candidate from New England . They knew this effort might be a challenge. Maryland was south of the Mason-Dixon line and conservative in political outlook and tradition .Yet, I knew that within the state there were a number of politically active constituencies, especially Catholics, who would find Kennedy an attractive candidate. Gov. J. Millard Tawes, from the rural oyster and crabbing community of Crisfield on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, was quietly backing the candidacy of Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, the Senate majority leader. In a face-to-face meeting with JFK, Tawes did what he could to dissuade Kennedy from running in the presidential primary in Maryland .1 1. Maryland was one of only thirteen states holding presidential primaries that year. 73 KENNEDY MAN Kennedy, more challenged than dissuaded, dispatched Macdonald and O’Brien to Maryland.They passed word that they would like to meet with any state legislators who would be willing to support Kennedy. Six or eight of us younger, more progressive members volunteered. I talked to my father about it first, as I always valued his political advice. Senator Kennedy was far more liberal than my father, and I didn’t want to upset him. My father said, “That’s fine. I won’t embarrass you. You go ahead and do what you can do, and I will not get involved with another candidate.”2 Dad had chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee when Lyndon Johnson was a junior committee member, and he was not a Johnson fan. Nominating Rules Presidential primaries in 1960 were neither as widespread nor as important as they are today.The Democratic National Convention, which was to be held in Los Angeles later that summer, was to become one of the last “brokered” conventions. Since only about a dozen states held presidential primaries that year, the selection of delegates would be fought over and the nomination secured through deal-making in “smoke-filled rooms” prior to and at the convention. Four years later, Lyndon Johnson would run unopposed at the 1964 Democratic convention, but four years after that the 1968 party convention imploded in ugly battles over Vietnam, civil rights, and other contentious issues. Johnson’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey, who had not participated in any party primaries, won the nomination. Opponents of the war, African Americans, and those who backed other candidates felt their voices had been shut out and demanded that nominating rules be reformed. They set up a commission that recommended sweeping changes in how presidential nominees would be selected, beginning 2. Quote recalled in Joseph D. Tydings, transcript of interview by Doug Washburn, June 30, 2013, 13–15, Harford Living Treasures Oral History Project, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD. 74 CHAPTER 6 with the 1972 election.3 Those changes resulted in a proliferation of party primaries and caucuses in the states. These days, the identity of party nominees—Democratic and Republican alike—is known well before convention delegates take their seats. Conventions now are almost devoid of drama or uncertainty. They are more like coronations or political “infomercials.” Elections have drastically changed in other ways since 1960. Unlike modern campaign staffs that plan electoral strategies a year or more before voting gets under way, the Kennedy team did not begin organizing in Maryland until just three months before the May presidential primary . Kennedy’s name was on the primary ballot in only ten states that year, and he campaigned in only a...


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