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State Rep. Royall Switzler, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said yesterday he had exaggerated his military experience in past campaign literature and had considered dropping out of the 1986 campaign because of the errors.
Switzler, a legislator from Wellesley, made the surprise announcement as he and many other candidates for office filed the necessary signatures to qualify for the fall ballot.
The legislator said he wanted to "bare my soul to the world" and set the record straight before launching a full-scale campaign against opponent Gregory Hyatt in the Sept. 16 GOP primary for governor.
Switzler said an unidentified campaign aide had introduced several false statements into his 1980 campaign literature. He said he approved the brochure, then allowed some erroneous information to be reprinted in later editions of the Massachusetts Political Almanac.
While he had reached the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Army, Switzler said, he never served as a captain and had never been a formal member of the U.S. Army Special Forces as claimed. While he did serve in Korea, Switzler said, he only visited Vietnam instead of serving there as claimed.
Earlier this year, a campaign aide was quoted as again stating that Switzler had been a Green Beret in Vietnam.
"Sometimes people like to be more than they are and maybe that was me," Switzler told a news conference.
"I'm sorry. I apologize for having done it and take full responsibility for it," he said.
Switzler, a six-term lawmaker and vocal fiscal conservative, often criticizes Democrats on Beacon Hill for what he claims is their dishonest spending practices. He was drafted by a group of legislators to run for governor at the April 12 Republican State Convention.
Since then, Switzler said, he had wrestled with his conscience on how to handle the problem. His indecision caused a lackluster start of his campaign, he said.
"Everybody expected a fast start out of the box," he said. "It's been difficult..."
Switzler said no reporter had asked him about the discrepancy in the past two years and that he had decided to reveal the errors on his own.
He said he was forced to confront the problem in 1982 after The Boston Globe reported on discrepancies in the background of another Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Lakian.
Maureen Garde, executive director of the Democratic State Committee, cited that incident, saying: "Royall Switzler has been awarded the Democratic State Committee's annual John Lakian 'truth in campaign' literature award by unanimous vote."
Hyatt declined comment on the impact of Switzler's statement, saying only, "A lot of that depends on the general public reaction and you folks in the media."
James Dorsey, press secretary to Democratic Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, said he would have no comment. Dukakis is unopposed within his party for another term and will meet the winner of the Switzler-Hyatt GOP primary.
Switzler was one of several statewide candidates to file their nominating petitions on the final day before the state deadline. Hyatt and Dukakis had filed their forms earlier, and the Secretary of State's office reported that all candidates for statewide office in both parties had met the filing requirement.
Candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general must submit 10,000 certified signatures, while candidates for auditor, treasurer and secretary of state must submit 5,000.
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