Gubernatorial candidates shake hands, dodge protests

Controversy tinges GOP rally; Patrick, Cahill court votes

By Alan Wirzbicki and Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / October 24, 2010

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DENNIS — The Republican supporters who gathered for a rally yesterday afternoon on the bucolic town green here were treated to a perfect autumn afternoon, food off the grill, and classic rock blasting from the loudspeakers.

What they didn’t get was a speech by congressional candidate Jeffrey D. Perry. And they got only the smallest taste of GOP gubernatorial nominee Charles D. Baker.

Perry, under fire for his role as a Wareham police sergeant in the early 1990s, when an officer under his command illegally strip-searched two teenage girls, shook hands and chatted with supporters but did not address the crowd. Baker, who had faced questions last week about appearing with Perry, spoke for less than two minutes.

The candidates appeared late, as the bells at a neighboring church tolled 3 p.m. After initially gathering in a bandstand, they moved to a plainer podium, a wooden block further from the roughly 10 protesters who chanted “Shame on you’’ as Baker raced through his speech. Protesters held signs saying “Apologize Jeff’’ and “Got Coverup?’’

“We’ve got 10 days, 10 days to turn this thing around,’’ said Baker, who didn’t mention Perry by name in his remarks.

“Have you had enough?’’ Baker asked the crowd. “I’m looking forward to taking back this great state of Massachusetts and giving you the government you deserve.’’

The rally drew several hundred supporters, many of them clad in red Perry shirts; several even decked out their dogs in matching Baker or Perry gear. One supporter waved a sign saying “Liberal Democrats Bad for America.’’ A parked car sported a giant “Illegals Go Home’’ sign trailing from the back.

As they mingled with supporters, the two men seemed to keep their interactions to a minimum. Baker’s speech began at 3:20 and concluded at 3:21. By 3:22, Perry was on his way out of the rally, climbing into a car parked by the cemetery bordering the green.

Perry’s involvement in the strip-search cases has been back in the news after one of the victims last week broke her long silence, alleging that Perry stood nearby during the assault and did nothing to stop it. He has said he did not witness anything that was inappropriate.

Governor Deval Patrick, campaigning in Boston and the suburbs, was repeatedly asked about Baker’s appearance with Perry, but stopped short of criticizing his rival.

“We forget that there is a human being at the center of this,’’ he said. “My thoughts are with that young woman and her family.’’

Independent candidate Timothy P. Cahill, who also spent the day shaking hands and holding signs, accused Baker of putting his party “ahead of decency or honesty.’’

“Hearing from the young woman who is still obviously affected by what was done to her, I couldn’t campaign with or support someone who doesn’t seem willing to tell the truth about the incident,’’ Cahill said in an interview.

Elsewhere, in a busy day of politicking, Patrick campaigned in the morning with Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, telling about 100 seniors gathered at a Knights of Columbus hall in West Roxbury that his administration strives to live by the ideals of their generation.

“We’re trying to model the lessons that you taught us,’’ Patrick said. “We’re trying to bring that back.’’

Menino said Patrick would help maintain affordable housing and health insurance for seniors and others.

“He’s the real deal,’’ said Menino, adding that his well-oiled political machine is helping the governor. “No question about it.’’

Patrick later met with volunteers in Wellesley and Sharon before attending a rally outside a Democratic Party office in Brockton.

Cahill looked for voters wherever he could find them — from a Quincy hair salon to the Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge.

“I’m in this race to win,’’ said Cahill before entering Hairplace One, which was opening at a new location on Quincy Avenue. Owner Ron Affsa and Mayor Thomas P. Koch of Quincy greeted Cahill before he cut a yellow ribbon for the cameras and greeted women getting their hair washed and cut.

Cahill went on to Cambridge, where he shook hands with spectators and hoisted signs with supporters. And he called into 95.9 FM — WATD in Marshfield — to discuss the campaign.

“I think the polls are somewhat rigged in a way to try to tell us who we should vote for and not sort of reading how the vote is,’’ he said.

Andrea Estes of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Sean Teehan contributed to this report.