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Gov. Patrick gets involved in Watertown legislative race

Posted by David Dahl, Regional Editor September 10, 2008 06:01 PM

Governor Deval Patrick appears to be throwing his weight behind a longtime friend who’s running in a competitive four-way primary race for the 29th Middlesex district seat next week.

Campaign literature circulating among Watertown and Cambridge voters shows Patrick posing with candidate Jonathan Hecht of Watertown and a statement from the Governor that reads in part, "I've known Jon Hecht for many years. He is a progressive Democrat with a long record of advocating for the needs of working families, especially in tough economic times . . ."

Hecht's campaign insists the statement isn't a formal endorsement, but Patrick's involvement is adding some spice to the campaign to replace longtime incumbent Rachel Kaprielian, who abruptly stepped down in May after being named the new Registrar of Motor Vehicles by Patrick. The 29th district seat includes most of Watertown and the Huron/Fresh Pond sections of Cambridge.

Among the other candidates is Julia Fahey, 32, an attorney from Watertown who has served as labor counsel for Service Employees International Union, a division of the National Association of Government Employees since 2002. Though it is her first political race, Fahey has garnered wide support from a number of unions and groups that previously backed Patrick, including the Mass. Teacher’s Association, Mass. Nurses Association, and the Mass. AFL-CIO. Her father, James E. Fahey is a retired attorney and former Watertown town clerk who when on to serve as Middlesex County treasurer in the 1990s and on the Middlesex County Retirement Board, said Fahey.

Stephen Corbett, a Watertown Town Councilor who runs a local construction and real estate development firm, and Joshua Weisbuch, a computer consultant who interned under President Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, are also vying for the seat.

Hecht’s campaign advisor, Matt O’Neil, said while Patrick's statements are “very positive” toward Hecht, the flyer is not an official endorsement. O’Neil said the men have “known each other for a long time” and that Hecht helped run Patrick’s own gubernatorial bid in Watertown two years ago to defeat former Attorney General Tom Reilly, a Watertown resident.

Hecht said his ties to Patrick go back long before either man entered politics. “I knew him as an 18-year-old freshman at Harvard,” said Hecht, whose older brother, Tom was Patrick’s college roommate in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Hecht, 50, is a senior researcher at Yale Law School specializing in Chinese law. He serves on the board of directors and the executive committee for the Mass. Municipal Association and is vice-president of the Mass. Municipal Councilors Association. Hecht is also on the Watertown Town Council.

The timing of Kaprielian’s withdrawal from the race means the candidates must now run a write-in/sticker campaign in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will have the distinct advantage of seeing only their name on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Kaprielian described herself as “dear friends” with Fahey’s older sister, but she said she has not endorsed any of the candidates. “I think the candidates should make their case to the voters,” she said. “It’s a new chapter.”

The intensity of the race created some political mischief last Friday night. About 30 campaign signs for Hecht were plucked from yards by thieves and dumped outside Hecht’s campaign office on Mt. Auburn Street and on the front lawn of Watertown Town Manager Michael Driscoll’s home.

Watertown police are still investigating the matter, Detective Lt. Michael Lawn said.

O’Neil said the primary is “a heck of a competitive race” and that the theft was probably pulled off by an “overzealous” supporter of another candidate. “I have no doubt there was a message behind it,” said O’Neil. “What it is, I don’t know.”

-- Christina Pazzanese

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