Primaries over, candidates quickly shift messages

Hopefuls seek broader appeal

Attending a Democratic unity meeting yesterday in Worcester were (from left) Steven Grossman, candidate for treasurer; Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray; Worcester Sheriff Guy Glodis; Governor Deval Patrick; and Suzanne M. Bump, candidate for auditor. Attending a Democratic unity meeting yesterday in Worcester were (from left) Steven Grossman, candidate for treasurer; Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray; Worcester Sheriff Guy Glodis; Governor Deval Patrick; and Suzanne M. Bump, candidate for auditor. (Dan Gould/Worcester Telegram &Amp; Gazette)
By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / September 16, 2010

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WORCESTER — Candidates for major statewide offices, after weeks of wooing the party faithful ahead of Tuesday’s primary, immediately shifted messages yesterday in hopes of appealing to a broader swath of anxious independent and middle-class voters who will decide November’s election.

At a rally in Worcester, Steve Grossman, the former chairman of the state and national Democratic parties, cast himself as the only seasoned business executive in the race for treasurer, saying he knows what it takes to make a budget and a payroll at his family’s century-old marketing company in Somerville.

His Republican rival, state Representative Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury, launched a television ad in which she describes herself as “a mom, a small-business owner, [and] a fighter for my community’’ who will push for lower taxes and less spending.

In the auditor’s race, the Democratic nominee, former state representative Suzanne Bump, who won endorsements from the outgoing auditor, A. Joseph DeNucci, and Democratic lawmakers, nevertheless vowed to challenge the status quo on Beacon Hill, “even when the status quo is represented by members of my own party.’’

The Republican candidate, Mary Z. Connaughton, said that as a certified public accountant and former outspoken member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board, she has a history of standing up to state officials and scrutinizing budgets. She said she alone has the expertise to serve as the “people’s eyes on Beacon Hill.’’

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who suffered a stinging defeat to Scott Brown in January’s US Senate race, learned yesterday that a Republican effort to place a challenger on the November ballot appeared likely to succeed. With 25 percent of cities and towns reporting yesterday, Millbury lawyer James P. McKenna had collected 8,600 write-in votes, just shy of the 10,000 he needs to qualify for the ballot, according to state election officials.

Republican officials had been facing criticism for not mounting a formal challenge to Coakley, whose favorability ratings plummeted after her loss to Brown.

The candidates for governor, although they were not tested in Tuesday’s primaries, accelerated their fight over who could best repair the economy and put people back to work.

Echoing an argument President Obama made in recent weeks, Governor Deval Patrick warned that if Republicans win in November, they will revive the economic policies that first led the country into recession.

“Make no mistake about it — all they want to do is import Bush economic policies to Massachusetts and, I fear, with the same catastrophic results,’’ Patrick said at a small morning rally with Grossman and the other Democratic nominees at his campaign office.

Hoping to buck up his supporters, he added: “Call it what it is, Democrats. And grow a backbone. Grow a backbone.’’

Charles D. Baker, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, responded by criticizing Patrick and state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, the independent candidate, for not signing a no-new-taxes pledge, saying Baker and his running mate, Richard R. Tisei, are the only ones to sign such a pledge.

“The eight tax increases of the past four years have cost Massachusetts jobs,’’ Baker said in a statement. “Governor Patrick and Treasurer Cahill have been advocating for, and pushing for, those higher taxes for the past four years, and it’s time for a new team to take Massachusetts in a new direction.’’

Cahill said he would be happy to sign a no-new-taxes pledge and, echoing an argument he made in last week’s television debate, accused Patrick and Baker of squabbling with each other instead of focusing on the concerns of workaday voters.

“The people I represent — the middle-class people and working people — are the ones I’m focused on trying to help, not the party establishment,’’ said Cahill, who is planning a rally tonight at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy.

Acknowledging voter anxiety about the strength of the economic recovery, Patrick said Massachusetts, under his leadership, is recovering from the downturn at twice the rate of the rest of the nation and was recently rated by CNBC as the fifth best state in which to do business.

“We have a plan. They don’t,’’ Patrick said. “It’s as simple as that.’’

Education, meanwhile, also became a battleground after Associated Industries of Massachusetts reported on its blog that Cahill, in a speech to the group yesterday, “pledged to support the Commonwealth’s recent adoption of national education standards, even though he has opposed the move during the campaign.’’

The standards have come under attack from critics who assert they are not as rigorous as the state’s MCAS exam. Last month, Cahill called the Patrick administration’s decision to adopt the standards “one of the most alarming and egregious of the past four years.’’

But yesterday, he said that while he still opposes the standards, he would not fight them now that they have been adopted. “I do oppose them and I oppose the switch, but if the deal is done, we’ll make sure they’re the best in the country,’’ he said in an interview. “It’s not a change in position at all.’’

Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow gubernatorial candidate, who protested outside a WBZ radio debate Tuesday night, will also be locked out of a debate today at 9 a.m. on WTKK-FM (96.9). At a concert in Shirley tonight, Stein plans to perform “Follow the Money,’’ a song about the governor’s race written by one of her supporters.

Also running for the Green-Rainbow party is Nat Fortune, who said he is the only candidate for auditor who is not accepting contributions from lobbyists. “I will answer only to the people of Massachustts,’’ Fortune said.

Michael Levenson can be reached at

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