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Fenway to help hit party message

Convention panel eyes landmark

SANTA FE N.M. -- Fenway Park will host a reception for Democratic governors during this summer's Democratic National Convention, as organizers plan ways to use Boston's best-known landmarks to highlight Senator John F. Kerry's roots and head off Republican charges that his home state is a liberal mecca.

Bill Richardson, the convention chairman and the governor of New Mexico, said in an interview with the Globe yesterday that the home of the Red Sox will be a key part of conveying the party's message during the four-day convention.

"The Red Sox have got some great tradition, and that will be highlighted at the convention,'' Richardson said in his office in the state Capitol.

"Maybe certain politicians should show their ability to hit a baseball,'' added Richardson, a Red Sox fan who pitched for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League in 1967. Although the Red Sox will be on the road, he said, "maybe we'll have a little batting practice. ... I'd like to take some swings.''

The Fenway event for the Democratic Governors Association, and other convention-week events that are still on the drawing board, appear geared to change the city's image in the public's mind. Democrats expect the GOP to use issues like gay marriage and the Taxachusetts label to pillory the state, and, by association, Kerry, Richardson said. Richardson insisted the Republican strategy won't work. "I happen to think we can make this convention a major success because of Boston," he said. "I'm not one of those that's lamenting because of gay marriage. That's a nonissue, and the public is just totally turned off, I sense, to negative politics."

Kerry has said he wants to show Americans watching the convention "the real Massachusetts" that is the "birthplace of freedom and democracy."

Richardson said convention-week events are also being planned for historic locations, including the nation's first public school and first public library, as well as Revolutionary War sites on the Freedom Trail and in Lexington and Concord.

Convention planners will also seek to highlight emerging fields, such as biotechnology, and those in medicine in Boston, he said.

"You will see a historic connection that is positive," Richardson said. "Don't be surprised if the convention itself moves around outside the FleetCenter. You'll see celebrities, fun events, substantive events."

He said the convention will portray Kerry's home city as an exciting place, steeped in American history, and with a tradition of political success extending from John Adams to John F. Kennedy.

"The convention will be a big plus for him. Many in the country will get to know Kerry more in this convention than in any other event," Richardson said. "There's a great Massachusetts tradition of electing presidents."

The Democratic Governors Association reception will be held at Fenway on Wednesday, July 28 -- the third day of the convention and the day before Kerry is to be formally nominated. Sponsored by UBS Financial Services, the event is billed as "an afternoon at one of America's most storied ballparks" and "an exclusive reception under the famous `Green Monster,' " according to an association flier.

UBS is among a number of private entities that have contacted the Red Sox to sponsor an event during the convention. Besides the Democratic National Convention Committee, which made preliminary contact months ago but has not yet booked a Fenway event, organizations including banks, manufacturers, and computer companies have been in touch with the Red Sox about convention-week events, though the team isn't releasing details because many events have not been formally booked.

Richardson said team officials would have to decide whether to allow participants to take the field at Fenway. Officials are concerned about possible damage to the sod.

The Sox play a weekend series with the New York Yankees right before the convention, but are out of town during the four days of the convention, which runs from July 26 to July 29.

"It's a great opportunity to get out of the convention hall and do something in another location," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "I've never seen someone walk into the ballpark and not smile."

Klein reported from Santa Fe, Abraham from Boston. Rick Klein can be reached at rklein@globe.com

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