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Minority Leader Hits Right Note

State Rep. Steven D. Pierce

By Chip Cummins

The music of a political campaign can say a lot about the candidate.

When politically beleaguered George Keverian '53 (D-Everett), speaker of the state House of Representatives, wound his way through a crowd of supporters to the podium at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge last week to announce his bid for treasurer, an elaborate speaker system belted out the title theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Lt. Gov. Evelyn F. Murphy, a liberal proponent of active government, blasted Fanueil Hall with U2 and Billy Joel early this year, moments before announcing her Democratic candidacy for the November governor's race.

And when House Minority Leader Steven D. Pierce (R-Westfield) officially announced he would run for governor at the Boston Trade Center, a lounge quartet in the corner of the small banquet room played his style of music.

Soft, rasping jazz.

The music--steady, low-key with few surprises--fits the candidate and his campaign smartly. Pierce, now considered the frontrunner in the Republican race for the corner office, has built his campaign slowly but steadily, making use of broad grassroots support and contacts deep within the GOP. He has successfully created a solid conservative image which should appeal to the party's middle-class wing.

Supporters of the minority leader, who assumed his position in 1987 at the young age of 33, attribute the campaign's success to Pierce's image as a down-to-earth conservative, knowledgable with the state's budget crisis and accustomed to battling the Democrats.

"I've served here for six terms in a real political arena, which tests somebody's metal," Pierce told The Crimson in an interview late last year. "I know how to articulate our message, and I've gone toe-to-toe with Democratic leaders."

Republican legislators say Pierce has beeneffective as minority leader and has earnedrespect on Beacon Hill and throughout thestate for what many call his no-nonsenseleadership style.

"I think he would make a very conscientiousgovernor," says George O'Brien, editor of TheWestfield Evening News, the daily paper inPierce's district. "He would be for solutionsgrounded in logic, not politics."

Pierce has consistently battled Dukakis and theHouse Democratic leadership over fiscal mattersand is perhaps the gubernatorial race's staunchestanti-tax candidate. He supports--with somemodifications--a ballot referendum sponsored byCitizens for Limited Taxation that would roll backcurrent tax levies. In addition, he has vowed tooppose all new taxes in his term as governor.

Critics of Pierce, however, maintain that theminority leader is waffling on the tax rollbackreferendum and contend that his conservativesocial agenda--particularly his anti-abortionstance--will make him unelectable in the generalelection.

"To some extent, abortion is going to be a bigissue, and I think Bill's position on the issue ismuch more in the mainstream," says state Rep.Richard R. Tisei (R-Wakefield), who chairs thecampaign committee of Pierce's principle opponent,former U.S. prosecutor William F. Weld '66.

And Weld supporters have made much of therecent revelation that Pierce filed late taxreturns on three separate occasions since 1986, inapparent violation of state and federal law.

This year, the GOP has been bolstered by publiccriticism of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, who alongwith other Democratic leaders has been blamed forthe state's estimated $600 million budget deficitand falling bond rating--now the lowest of anystate in the nation. Pierce critics say the latefilings throw the minority leader's fiscalcompetence similarly into question.

Pierce and his campaign maintain that the latefilings were simply personal oversights, and didnot result in any personal benefit to the minorityleader.

Many state Republicans look to November astheir first real chance to win the governor'soffice in two decades. As a result, many in theGOP, including Pierce, have tried to convince theparty to unite behind a single candidate at theconvention. A candidate who receives 15 percentmore delegate votes than the closest rival wins a"supermajority" and the endorsement and support ofthe state committee.

Pierce, who has been trailing Weld since thestart of the Republican race for governor, is nowin a position to speculate about victory bysupermajority. A poll of convention delegatesconducted last week by The Boston Herald andWCVB-TV placed him ahead of Weld by 13 percent,providing Pierce's campaign with a much-neededboost.

The filing mistake will not be forgotten beforethe convention on Saturday, but Pierce supporterssay the minority leader's image as a down-to-earthpolitician will carry him to victory this weekend.

"He represents the values of the averagecitizen," says Paul May, who served under formerGov. Edward King and now supports Pierce. "He canrelate to people a lot better [than Weld]."Crimson File PhotoSTEVEN D. PIERCE

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