'Tough, smart politician'; Drinan not popular in Clinton, Bolton.


Byline: Richard Nangle

The Rev. Robert F. Drinan's 1970 interparty challenge to longtime U.S. Rep. Philip J. Philbin, D-Clinton, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was not a popular cause with the western part of the 3rd Congressional District, which in those days included the vote-rich communities of Clinton, Fitchburg, Leominster, Marlboro and Gardner.

In those communities, Mr. Philbin won overwhelming Democratic primary victories.

Rev. Drinan, the Boston College Law School dean who hung the Vietnam War around the 28-year House veteran's political neck, showed considerably more political strength in his hometown of Newton and some of the other eastern communities in the district, such as Concord, Waltham and Watertown. His vote-getting effort was wildly successful and the result was akin to Eastern Massachusetts delivering a body blow to Central Massachusetts.

Rev. Drinan looked strong going into the general election, but after a few weeks of contemplation, the 72-year-old Mr. Philbin decided to launch a sticker campaign in an effort to keep his seat.

He timed his announcement with the release of an internal poll that had him with 51 percent of the vote in a general election compared with 30 percent for Rev. Drinan and 18 percent for Republican John A.S. McGlennon of Concord.

With that the intense and divisive race, which focused mainly on the Vietnam War, entered a new phase.

In a debate before Mr. Philbin's re-entry, Rev. Drinan addressed the question of his service in the priesthood directly, saying voters would have to decide which was the lesser of two evils - a Jesuit or a Republican.

"I suggest I'm the lesser," he said.

Mr. McGlennon responded to Rev. Drinan's attacks on the Nixon administration, saying withdrawal, "must be handled by the commander in chief, the president. I have consistently supported a program of phased withdrawal, which I think will be completed by 1971."

Speaking to The Worcester Gazette, Mr...

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