Elizabeth Childs, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, announced Wednesday that she had earned the endorsement of four high-profile female politicians, buoying her campaign for the Republican nomination for Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District seat.
The endorsements came from former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry M. Healey ’82, former Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Jennifer A. Nassour, former Massachusetts Governor Jane M. Swift, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
“As a physician, public official and mother, Dr. Childs understands the challenges facing families across Massachusetts,” Swift said in a statement released by Childs’ campaign. “Rather than play the blame game, Dr. Childs works in bipartisan ways to find practical solutions in education, health care and public management of taxpayer dollars.”
Childs’ bid for a seat in the U.S. Congress has suffered from a lack of exposure from the outset, analysts said, but this week’s endorsements could help bolster support and generate much-needed cash for the struggling campaign.
“She’s a newcomer, and these endorsements help to make her a viable candidate, which is certainly objective number one for anyone running,” said Joseph D. Malone ’78, a Republican political strategist and former Congressional candidate.
Childs, a physician who lives in Brookline, headed the Department of Mental Health under former Governor Mitt Romney from 2003 to 2007. In 2006, she was appointed to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, a board consulted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.
Childs faces Sean Bielat, a Marine Corps Reserve officer, for the Republican nomination. The winner will compete in the general election to fill the seat long held by retiring Representative Barney Frank ’61-’62.
Bielat ran against Frank two years ago; in that race, Frank survived with the tightest victory in nearly 20 years. Frank pulled about 54 percent of the vote to Bielat’s 43 percent.
Frank decide to retire after more than 30 years in office in the wake of redistricting that brought a large number of Republicans into his traditionally Democratic district.
Childs announced her bid for the Fourth Congressional seat in July 2011 but was eclipsed by Bielat and by Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III, who announced his interest in the seat in January.
“Elizabeth Childs certainly has a good reason to feel pleased. However, this will be a long race, and Sean Bielat will get his endorsements,” Malone said. “I expect it will be a very competitive primary.”
Bielat is considered by most political analysts to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination this time around, but a poll taken in January showed Kennedy with a two-to-one lead over Bielat.
Childs said that as an independent-minded Republican, she is better positioned to appeal to her district’s voters.
“I do think that I’m a real contrast with Sean Bielat and Joseph Kennedy, and the whole point of democracy is to give people options,” Childs said in an interview in late January. “Only voters can change the course of the country.... That’s why it’s the responsibility of people like me to give them choices.”
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.