BOSTON—Independent Timothy Cahill on Thursday accused Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick of "playing politics with terrorism" and "pandering" to the Muslim community by meeting with its leaders and supporting their requests.
In a statement, the state treasurer and 2010 gubernatorial candidate noted Patrick met with more than 1,000 Muslim leaders last weekend and indicated support for a variety of their initiatives.
They include having law enforcement officers meet with leaders to expand cultural awareness and urging employers to let Muslims leave work early on Friday afternoons for prayers.
The statement was one of the strongest yet from Cahill, himself a former Democrat now courting conservative voters in what is distilling into a three-way race with Patrick and Republican Charles Baker. The most recent poll in the race showed Patrick opening a double-digit lead on Baker, with Cahill plummeting following a $1 million negative ad blitz by the Republican Governors Association.
Baker, too, is courting fiscal and social conservatives.
"I fully support equal protection under the law for every American, regardless of race or creed, but this is political correctness run amok," Cahill said.
Noting two Muslim-Americans recently were arrested in Massachusetts in connection with the attempted Times Square bombing, Cahill added: "Gov. Patrick should stop playing politics with terrorism and focus on protecting all the citizens of this commonwealth."
The treasurer said Patrick should "look radical Islamic terrorism full in the face, call it what it is. ... Additionally, the governor must urge the leaders of the Muslim-American community to finally police these rogue elements and help apprehend those who would do us harm where we all work, raise our children and live our lives."
Cahill claimed a personal connection to attempted terrorism, describing himself as "someone who had a daughter near Times Square when that attack took place."
A spokesman for Patrick, the state's first black governor, labeled the comments "unfortunate." He also accused Cahill of "fear-mongering" and noted the governor also has met with Chinese immigrants, Hispanics and Africans in recent weeks.
"Deval Patrick is not going to be lectured by a politician who equates meeting with over 1,000 members of the Muslim-American community with `playing politics with terrorism,'" said spokesman Alex Goldstein. "As governor, he has been and will remain committed to meeting with all of the commonwealth's residents, regardless of religion."
Goldstein said the statement highlights "why the residents of Massachusetts will overwhelmingly reject the fear-mongering and negative political tactics of Tim Cahill."
Cahill is being advised by former top aides to Sen. John McCain, and his statement had national overtones echoing some of the Arizona senator's criticism of President Barack Obama and his Democratic administration.
"It comes as no surprise that Gov. Patrick is talking this way: In 2007, he naively attributed the 9/11 bombings to a 'failure of human understanding' in America," Cahill said. "Gov. Patrick's response echoes President Obama's conduct of American foreign policy in the face of aggression: blame America first, and apologize for our supposed sins."