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Local GOP is not a lock for Romney

Despite his strong ties to Massachusetts in politics and business, former governor Mitt Romney does not have the support of Republican State Committee member Stephen M. Zykofsky in his bid for the White House.

Instead, Zykofsky, of Lynn, backs Rudolph W. Giuliani, believing that of the major candidates, the former New York mayor is the one "most capable of handling the job of president at such a difficult time."

Zykofsky is one of a number of active Republicans in the region who either are supporting others or keeping their options open. Other Giuliani backers include state Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei of Wakefield, state Senator Bruce E. Tarr of Gloucester, and former Massachusetts Republican Party chairman Brian Cresta of Middleton.

Key local Republicans supporting Romney's run include House minority leader Bradley Jones of North Reading, state Representative Brad Hill of Ipswich, and former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey of Beverly.

Among former Republican governors in the state, Jane Swift supports Arizona Senator John McCain, Paul Cellucci has endorsed Giuliani, and William F. Weld is backing Romney.

"I think it's very healthy for the Republican Party," said Tisei, who is cochairing Giuliani's Massachusetts campaign with Tarr and Senator Michael Knapik of Westfield. "It's exactly what we need -- three strong candidates and maybe more that can attract new people to the party."

Republican State Committee member and Haverhill City Councilor William H. Ryan, a Giuliani supporter, said the potential loss of Massachusetts should be troubling to Romney because "I don't know anyone who has run for president successfully who has not carried their own state in the primaries."

But Romney supporters see no reason for alarm.

Jones said there are a variety of reasons why some party leaders may not be with Romney, including philosophical differences, or relationships with other candidates. But "the vast majority of elected Republicans... are with Governor Romney," including 18 of the 19 House Republicans and 20 of 24 legislators overall, he said.

"Our focus is on building a national organization, and we've been making great strides in putting together the team that will be necessary to win," said Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. "As part of that, we are pleased to have the support of the majority of the Massachusetts Republican establishment.... But one of the beauties of our electoral system is that people are free to make their own choices."

Republican State Committee member Nancy J. Luther of Topsfield has made her choice: Giuliani.

"He has the best chance of retaining the White House for the Republican Party," said Luther, who also views Giuliani as "a leader of great proportions."

Luther also noted that "there wasn't any party growth" in Massachusetts during Romney's four years as governor.

Tarr said he wanted a candidate who could "broaden the base of the party through a very inclusive approach. From what I've seen thus far of the former governor's approach, it's to have a very narrow focus on one segment of the party." Tarr said that as New York mayor, Giuliani "was able to pull people together and accomplish some terrific results."

Tisei said he likes Romney, "but I like Rudy Giuliani even more.... He has a great story to tell about turning around New York City, and that makes him a very appealing candidate to me."

Republican State Committee member Christina Bain of Manchester-by-the-Sea thinks Romney's background in business and finance makes him the best candidate. "I'd rather see someone who knows the budgetary process and how to organize a company from the ground up," she said.

Hill, the state representative from Ipswich, thinks Romney would be a good leader in the White House, pointing to "what he's done with the Olympics, what he's done here in the state." Jones, who represents parts of Lynnfield and Middleton, said he has "strong loyalty" to Romney based on their past working relationship. While he conceded that some are upset with Romney for his travels out of state in the latter part of his term as governor, Jones said, "Hopefully, people in the fullness of time will look at his entire record.... I think we had fundamental healthcare reform because of the leadership of Governor Romney."

Former Rockport selectman Ted Tarr supported McCain in his 2000 presidential run and is with him again. "I think he's pretty much a centrist and a very earnest, straightforward guy," said Tarr, who is not related to Bruce Tarr.

Republican State Committee member John Racho of Ipswich is still sizing up the field.

While calling Romney "one of the front-runners for my choice," Racho said, "I want to hear how Mitt Romney intends to address the issues facing the country."

Kevin P. Scott of Wakefield, an unsuccessful candidate for the US Senate last year, also is uncommitted, but likes both Giuliani and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

As for Romney, "I met him only once for about 30 seconds," Scott said.

"He's spent a lot of time outside of Massachusetts, so a lot of people like myself frankly don't know him really well so we really can't pass much judgment."

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