Rebuffing critics of his leadership style as Massachusetts House speaker and defending the ideals of the state Democratic party, George Keverian '53 (D-Everett) officially announced his candidacy for state treasurer last night.
Keverian, attacked in the press and by legislators in both parties for the House's inability to solve the state's worsening fiscal crisis, said state government cannot balance its books by abandoning the people of Massachusetts.
"I truly feel I'm on a mission to help the people of this Commonwealth for whom government is everything," Keverian told more than 500 placard-waving supporters in a series of spontaneous comments after his prepared speech at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge.
His opponents, who include Republican Joe Malone and state Sen. Richard A. Kraus (D-Arlington), have accused Keverian of wavering leadership in dealing with the state's $500 million budget deficit and its falling bond rating, now the lowest of any state in the country.
Late last year, Keverian tried to push a $1 billion tax package through the House to close the shortfall, but House members rejected the plan, and one House chair resigned under pressure from Keverian to support the tax package.
Keverian lashed out at Malone last night, one of many Republicans who are hoping the state's fiscal crisis will send angered Democratic voters over to their party.
Keverian, who is the son of Armenian immigrants, accused the Republicans of advocating budget cuts that would hurt the disadvantaged people of the state.
"From the days of Herbert Hoover down through Joe Malone, the Republicans have always said, we can't afford it," said Keverian, a native of Everett.
"As proud Democrats, we ask, how can we not afford to meet the hopes and the needs of our citizens? That's the difference between the compassion of the Democratic Party and the cold heartedness of the Republicans," he added.
Keverian, who has served in the House for 24 years and has been speaker since 1985, will be trying to win an office ccupied for the last 25 years by Robert Q. Crane. Crane's tenure, which saw the successful establishment of the state lottery, has been plagued by controversy and accusations of patronage.
Keverian, emphasizing the image of honesty that has surrounded him since his ascension to the speakership, said he will run the treasury with efficiency and integrity.
"The qualities of honesty and integrity have been the cornerstone of my public life. My word is my bond, and it is my word, along with a record of achievement and leadership that I offer to the people of Massachusetts," he said.
Keverian ousted now-state Rep. Thomas W. McGee (D-Lynn) from the speakership in a campaign based on rules reform within the House. House members, dissatisfied with McGee's heavy-handed leadership style, rallied around Keverian.
But McGee and others now cite Keverian's unwillingness to use tactics, such as arm-twisting, as a reason why the House has not been able to address the budget deficit.
He peppered his speech last night with the disarming wit that has made him allies on the House floor and eased tensions in the often-heated fiscal debates of the last two years.
When the hotel's fire alarm accidently went off during his speech, Keverian quipped, "That's probably Mayor Hurly." Mayor Mary Hurly of Springfield has blamed the recent drop in his city's bond rating on the state's fiscal crisis.