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Spotlight Report


Churches cope with falloff in giving

By Rick Klein, Globe Staff, 3/21/2002

Bay State Democrats are planning a quick and intense attack against Mitt Romney, with the party set to send representatives to Salt Lake City to look into his Olympic leadership, and with Democratic staffers back in Massachusetts ready to dig into other aspects of his past and political positions.

But privately, some Democrats are concerned about their own field - with some suggesting that one or more gubernatorial hopefuls should bow out now, to allow the other candidates to conserve resources until the heart of the campaign against Romney.

''The Democrats could have nominated Terry Glenn or Dan Duquette before this'' and still won in November, said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University. ''Everything's turned upside down and inside out. And the Democrats are going to be beating up each other while Romney is raising campaign funds.''

All five Democrats who are running for governor are moving to position themselves as the party's best matchup for Romney, who will cruise to the Republican nomination with Acting Governor Jane Swift's withdrawal from the campaign. State Treasurer Shannon P. O'Brien yesterday delivered that word to 5,000 delegates to the state's Democratic convention via recorded phone messages, and the other candidates are equally resolute that they can take on Romney.

''This is about who can beat Romney in November,'' said Steve Grossman, a Somerville businessman and gubernatorial candidate. ''That's what people are asking since yesterday's bombshell dropped. I'm going to sharply contrast Romney's behavior in his corporate life with my own.''

Top Democrats are clearly concerned about the threat that Romney poses, and they're considering launching a pre-primary advertising attack on Romney - an unusual move in Massachusetts. But the party has only about $200,000 in the bank - not nearly enough for a sustained media effort, and party leaders say even that money is needed to cover basic operations.

The cash shortage has some Democrats concerned that their primary field is too crowded, since four of the party's five candidates for governor are tapping into local and national dollars. (Former state senator Warren E. Tolman isn't a significant fund-raising factor because he's abiding by Clean Elections limits so he can receive public campaign support.)

''There's just a limited amount of dollars available,'' said Jane Lane, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic party.

Party leaders are resisting any efforts to push candidates out, saying that the June 1 Democratic convention will adequately winnow the field in plenty of time for this fall's elections. Still, some Democrats are suggesting that it may be time for Grossman to leave the race, since he's lagging in the polls but is still aggressively raising money from national sources.

Grossman's campaign manager, Colleen McGee, said there is no chance that he will withdraw.

Philip W. Johnston, the state Democratic chairman, said that he is not concerned about the party's ability to raise money, noting that the national party has targeted the Massachusetts gubernatorial race as a major priority. With or without paid advertisements, he said, the party will make sure that Romney doesn't have a free ride. Already, the party's ''shadow government'' - which criticizes and responds to administration policy - has turned its eye to Romney.

''Now that it's clear that Romney will be the Republican nominee, he's the person we're going to be talking about,'' Johnston said. ''Mitt Romney really represents a continuation of Republican policies which have not served the state well.''

That theme was echoed by several of the candidates yesterday, and Democrats took particular joy in an appearance yesterday in which Swift and Romney appeared shoulder-to-shoulder, with Romney praising Swift's leadership. Romney's opponents will look to link him with Swift and her immediate predecessors, who they are blaming for budget shortfalls and cost overruns at the Big Dig.

And in some ways, the candidates said, Romney is an even better target than Swift, since some of his positions offer greater opportunities for contrast. Democrats are already mentioning his one-time opposition to a minimum- wage increase and his stance on abortion rights.

''It poses a starker contrast with regard to values,'' said Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, a Chelsea Democrat who is running for governor. ''He and I are 180 degrees apart.''

''From what I know of his views, we represent very different approaches on many issues that are quite basic,'' said former US labor secretary Robert Reich, another Democratic candidate.

Rick Klein can be reached at

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 3/21/2002.
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