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The UnKennedy: On The Campaign Trail To Nowhere

October 30, 1996

SOMERVILLE, Mass. (AP) _ R. Philip Hyde is a sure loser.

That he can live with. What does bother him is that his fellow Republicans actually think he’s a shill for his opponent, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II.

Hyde says he is a serious candidate, even if while plotting strategy from his kitchen table campaign headquarters he knows he faces one of the biggest _ and quietest _ pastings of the upcoming elections.

This is the 8th Congressional District: Kennedy country.

John F. Kennedy started his political career by carrying the district. For years, it was the home of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Now it belongs to Joe Kennedy, son of Bobby. Fewer than 6 percent of district residents are registered Republicans.

Hyde is a rebel in his own neighborhood. He calls himself the ``Un-Kennedy.″

``This is a feudal, hereditary monarchy,″ he said. ``We must, at least, put up the appearance of a democracy and catch a miracle if it happens. I know I’m ready. I am a nerd. ... I am Dilbert going against the crown prince.″

He’s a man with an idea: an economic theory called time-sizing that involves cutting back the work week. Hyde says the shorter week would be better for workers’ health, increase wages, moderate inflation and offer a slew of other benefits.

On a dead-end street in an old Italian part of town, the ``Hyde for Congress″ campaign headquarters smelled of coffee and toast one recent morning. Economics books and the only newspaper clipping of Hyde’s run at the storied district were spread out before him.

Hyde was battling allegations by unnamed ``Republican operatives″ that he was a Democratic plant, that by running he gave Kennedy an excuse to spend his $1.5 million war chest and boost Kennedy’s image before an anticipated gubernatorial run in two years.

Brian O’Connor, spokesman for the Kennedy campaign, called the charge absolutely false.

``We’ve had no contact with Hyde,″ he said. ``He has his own clear agenda.″

His fellow Republicans were no help.

``Yep. No question this is an advantage to Kennedy,″ Republican State Committee Chairman Bill Vernon said. ``Sometimes it’s better to let these guys go unopposed a few times.″

The committee assists Republican candidates with campaign classes and fund-raising, but its leaders refused to let Hyde take the class when he wouldn’t pony up $50. And if Hyde asked them for money?

``That’s a tough one,″ replied Vernon.

Yet Hyde is no political novice: He ran for alderman-at-large last summer, finishing eighth of eight.

Hyde speaks in a slow, thoughtful way, like a preacher at a pulpit, with a Canadian accent. He says ``a-boat″ instead of ``about.″ He considered joining the ministry once and speaks Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew, the three biblical languages.

Born and raised in Toronto, Hyde received a bachelor’s degree in ancient civilization from the University of Toronto in 1964, and a master’s degree in linguistics there in 1968.

He came to the United States after finishing school and worked as a researcher and Boston University staff member before entering the state’s high-tech industry as a writer and editor about 12 years ago.

Hyde, who is in his early 50s, said he met his opponent only once _ at an economic forum in Boston. When he shook Kennedy’s hand and told him he may run against him in the fall, Kennedy looked hurt and said, ``Why would you ever want to do that?,″ recalled Hyde.

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