Cahill enters race for governor

Vows to reverse sales tax increase

By Andrea Estes
Globe Staff / September 10, 2009

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Casting himself as the champion of ordinary citizens who are overtaxed and underrepresented on Beacon Hill, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill yesterday launched his bid for governor as an independent candidate.

“I will serve as the protector of the middle class and fight to make government work again,’’ Cahill said at a news conference at a downtown hotel, standing before a black sign proclaiming “Tim for Governor’’ in white letters. “I intend to restore confidence in government by being fiscally conservative and forcing Beacon Hill to live within its means.’’

Cahill, a longtime Democrat who was elected treasurer in 2002, dropped out of the Democratic Party this summer, saying he felt out of place in a party that he believed was taxing and spending too much.

He will now face Governor Deval Patrick; Republicans Charles D. Baker, the former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; and convenience store magnate Christy Mihos, who said yesterday that he would remain in the governor’s race after flirting with a run for the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat.

Cahill said he would lower taxes - including reversing the sales tax increase from 5 percent to 6.25 percent - and make cuts in programs the Legislature and governor have been loath to touch, including the state’s landmark health care initiative.

“It would be the biggest challenge and the hardest part of the job,’’ he said in an interview with the Globe. “You have to have a very thick skin and stay focused on trying to help the middle class and the small businessman.’’

Though an independent candidate has never won a governor’s race in Massachusetts, Cahill said he is convinced he can succeed.

“It’s simple, but it’s not going to be easy,’’ he said. “As a centrist, as an independent, I’m going to directly appeal to those 51 percent of the registered voters [who are unenrolled] to vote for me and not have to make a decision to pick one side or the other to represent them. They’ve never really had that choice before. This will be a different type of election.’’

Cahill said his decision to leave the party has freed him from the pressure to conform to party platforms and policies.

“Every day since I have unenrolled has been a good day for me politically and personally,’’ he said.

Cahill’s announcement, held in a small function room at the Omni Parker House, was notably low key, with few supporters and little of the political energy that sometimes fuels campaign kickoffs. His “Tim for Governor’’ theme evoked the catchy “Tim for Treasurer’’ slogan that helped him win a crowded Democratic primary for treasurer in 2002.

He plans to begin the campaign with a fund-raiser and rally tonight at Adams Inn in Quincy, his hometown.

Mihos, and spokesmen for Patrick and Baker welcomed Cahill to the race but said they would beat him.

“We are confident that when the voters of Massachusetts hear each candidates’ vision for creating jobs and building a bright future for our state, they will choose Governor Patrick,’’ said Steve Crawford, Patrick spokesman.

Mihos called Cahill an “insider’’ who can’t fix the problems of Beacon Hill.

“He’s a two-term constitutional officer who served in a number of other positions,’’ Mihos said. “Candidate Cahill is an insider. Deval Patrick is an insider. After 10 years in state and local government, Charlie Baker is an insider. I’m the only outsider who has built a business. I’m not a professional politician who jumps from job to job in public life.’’

Rob Gray, Baker spokesman, also sought to portray Cahill as an insider, saying “no candidate who shows up for work on Beacon Hill every day is going to have the creativity, independence, and guts to do what needs to be done to right this state’s fiscal ship.’’

Though Cahill said he was not entering the race “to run against any individual or party,’’ he took a few shots at the governor, making implicit references to the buyout package recently handed to Daniel Grabauskas, former MBTA general manager, and Patrick’s thwarted effort to give state Senator Marian Walsh a high-paying administration job.

“We cannot waste any more time in state government spending money carelessly, hiring people for jobs that have been unfilled for decades, or buying out contracts and then trying to make up for it by raising taxes,’’ he said. “That is not the way to help middle-class families.’’

Cahill also said he opposes the bill currently under debate in the Legislature that would allow the governor to appoint an interim successor to Kennedy until a special election is held in January. Patrick yesterday again urged lawmakers to approve the measure.

Cahill’s entry, though, would seem to help Patrick’s political chances, at least according to a Globe poll earlier this summer, which indicated that Baker and Cahill could compete for the same bloc of voters.

In the interview, Cahill also ticked off the differences between him and Baker, who also calls himself a fiscal conservative.

“I’ve really struggled and had to borrow money to put my kids through school, which I’m sure he has not,’’ Cahill said.

“I know how to win elections and I know how to govern. I think that will be a winning message.’’