BOSTON--Incumbent Gov. William F. Weld '66 last night declared victory over State Rep. Mark Roosevelt '78, becoming the first Republican governor to win re-election in Massachusetts in 28 years.
With 78 percent of all precincts reporting, Weld was leading Roosevelt by 71 to 28 percent.
"This election marked a point of no return for Massachusetts," Weld said in his victory speech. "Would we turn back or push forward? Would we render the past four years a momentary diversion or make them the initial steps in a new direction?"
"Today, the voters chose the new direction," Weld said, adding, however, that the new direction was not an "ideological shift."
"Don't expect us to do any differently than we've done already," Weld told reporters after his speech. "Don't look for a radical change in course from the past four years."
Weld did promise to work on the four fronts he brought up during the campaign: crime, welfare, economic development and education.
"I predict health care reform is going to surface as a state issue within the next year," Weld said.
Meanwhile at the Roosevelt headquarters, spirits were low.
"There is no shame in a principled defeat," Roosevelt's running mate Robert K. Massie told supporters.
Roosevelt, who has spent the past few weeks decrying Weld's negative ad campaign, changed his tune last night--calling it "a positive campaign" and wishing Weld a successful four years ahead.
"Tonight this campaign ends," Roosevelt said in his concession speech. "But our purpose never ends."
But Weld aides defended the governor from Roosevelt's earlier attacks last night. Others maintained that the Massachusetts gubernatorial race had not been as controversial or vituperative as others around the country.
"I don't think it was a particularly hard-hitting campaign compared to what was happening in the rest of the country," said Ilene Hoffer, issues director for Weld.
Weld supporters, however, said that ultimately the candidates' records--and not the campaign--determined last night's results
"I think the people were very satisfied with the [Weld] administration's successes," said Weld press secretary Paula J. Popeo.
Weld, a longtime U.S. attorney, won the governorship in 1990 by a narrow margin. His victory, which was backed by many liberal Democrats, was seen as a rejection of his opponent, acerbic Boston University president John T. Silber.
But Weld was never threatened in this campaign. He held a wide fundraising edge over Roosevelt, a young state representative who won the Democratic nomination largely on the basis of his endorsement by party officials.
While Weld relentlessly pounded Roosevelt with negative TV ads, the Democrat was unable to respond. Outspent 30 to 1 in the campaign, he simply didn't have the money.
Roosevelt's choice of campaign strategy was also called into question by political experts. He frequently criticized the governor's support of casino gambling, even as polls showed public support for gaming