Governor’s race starts to simmer

Patrick video brings rebuttal from rivals

By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / October 14, 2009

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Oh, yeah, about that governor’s race.

With all of the attention on the US Senate contest and the battle to be mayor of Boston, it has been easy to forget that Massachusetts faces a heated four-way bout for governor next year.

But Governor Deval Patrick, both helped and burdened by the powers of incumbency, appears to be starting his reelection campaign in earnest.

Patrick released a video message to supporters over the weekend, in which he began to outline what promises to be a core campaign message, that he has guided the state through a difficult economy while laying the groundwork for a broad recovery.

He also began sharply contrasting himself, for the first time, with his three opponents: Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who recently left the Democratic Party to challenge Patrick as an independent, and two Republicans, Charles Baker, the former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Christy Mihos, a Cape Cod businessman who built a convenience store empire.

“We’re expecting a challenging race,’’ Patrick said in the three-minute message, which shows him sitting down, with no tie on. “Three contenders have already entered the race, and they are honorable people. But they want to move Massachusetts back. They want to walk away from our historic commitment to universal health care. They want to walk away from our extraordinary efforts to invest in our infrastructure and education.’’

Patrick also appears to be planning to run, as he did in 2006, as an outsider. But this time he is an incumbent controlling the levers of power.

“They want to look the other way, as we used to, at our Big Dig debt, and let the insiders and well-connected make the decisions for all the rest of us,’’ Patrick said in the message. “Well, our vision for Massachusetts is very different.’’

Each of the other campaigns fought back yesterday, throwing up some of the most aggressive salvos to date.

“I think he should just shut up and run the state and do what has to be done here,’’ said Mihos, who said he plans to take out a television ad by the end of the month.

Baker said it was “pretty hard to say there’s been a lot of reform up on Beacon Hill over the last couple years.’’ He added, “The best way to sustain all of the good things in Massachusetts, including a business climate, is to get the state’s finances in control, so people aren’t constantly wondering when the next bomb to fall off of Beacon Hill is going to come.’’

Baker also laughed off suggestions that he is an insider. “The last time I checked, he’s the only insider currently serving as governor,’’ he said.

A spokeswoman for Cahill, Alison Mitchell, said, “As the only independent in the race, Treasurer Cahill is focused on solving problems, not disparaging his opponents in an attempt to raise more money from party insiders.’’

A Patrick campaign spokesman hit back by casting opponents as the true insiders.

“Charlie Baker is the guy who came up with the funding scheme for the Big Dig that we’re all still paying for,’’ said the spokesman, Steve Crawford. “And Tim Cahill has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from the financial services industry. That’s the conduct of insiders.’’

Baker has said that he had no role in directly managing the project while he was the state’s secretary for administration and finance for four years, from 1994 to 1998. He has also said that he had already moved on to his job at Harvard Pilgrim by 2000, when cost overruns on the Big Dig came to light.

For months, Patrick has been dogged by speculation that he did not really want to run for reelection and that he had his sights set on Washington. His name surfaced on early lists for US attorney general, even as perhaps the next Supreme Court nominee. His lethargic fund-raising, coupled with the much larger hauls brought in by Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, only fueled discussion that Patrick was not going to run.

Patrick has $487,910 in his account, according to his latest campaign filing, about a sixth of what Cahill has.

Next week, though, the governor is bringing President Obama to town for a major fund-raiser, which aides hope will raise $500,000.

The Oct. 23 event will be held at the American Grand Ballroom at the Westin Copley. Tickets for the luncheon are listed at $500 each, and those who wish to attend a private reception beforehand must pay $6,000, which includes maximum donations to the state Democratic Party, Patrick, and Murray.

Matt Viser can be reached at