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Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Look Ahead to Weekend Convention

Pierce Hopes for Knockout Blow; Weld Seeks Strong Showing

By Vanessa L. Walker

As Massachusetts Republicans prepare to endorse a GOP candidate for governor this weekend at their state convention, campaign officials are stepping up efforts to win convention delegates to their side, and make certain their candidates are not eliminated from the race entirely.

Most observers predict that the two leading candidates--State Rep. Steven D. Pierce (R-Westfield) and former U.S. prosecutor William F. Weld '66--will each garner enough delegates at the convention to stay on the ticket.

However, some are questioning that prediction thanks to a recent poll of 300 delegates, conducted last week by The Boston Herald and WCVBTV. That poll showed Pierce ahead of Weld by 13 percent going into the convention.

If a candidate garners 15 percent more delegates than the next runner-up this weekend--amounting to a supermajority--the state Republican committee will provide him with volunteers and campaign funds, officially making him the party's candidate and forcing rivals off the ticket.

But if no candidate wins by a 15 percent margin, the front-runner will receive only a non-binding endorsement from the state committee. In that case, a final decision will not be made until the Republican primary election on Sept. 18.

State Rep. John C. Bradford (R-Rochester) said he felt there was a "real chance" of a supermajority for Pierce, citing the results of the Herald poll.

"People are beginning to sense that Weld's campaign is in the throes of disintegration," Bradford said.

And Pierce, the House minority leader, told The Associated Press he would continue to fight Weld for the convention delegates.

"We've got a very strong opponent who's outspending us. We're taking nothing for granted," Pierce said.

"I don't know the exact numbers, but we're working very hard to win. It's kind of like heading into a big play-off game," said Jordan St. John, Pierce's spokesperson.

But State Sen. Peter C. Webber (R-Pittsfield), a Weld supporter, questioned the accuracy of the Herald poll and said a supermajority is extremely unlikely.

"[The race] is much closer than the polls say," Webber said.

Ray Howell, a Weld spokesperson, told the Associated Press that he also questioned the poll, adding that his delegate count differs from the Herald's results.

"We think we'll be competitive at the convention, and we are going to spend from now until Saturday working as hard as we can for every delegate," Howell said.

The convention could also make or break the candidacy of former U.S. Rep. Paul W. Cronin (R-Mass.). If he does not win at least 15 percent of the delegates this weekend, the state committee will automatically bar him from running on the Republican ticket.

Michael Getz, press secretary for Cronin, said he is confident Cronin will achieve the necessary 15 percent and hopes to win more than 1000 delegates.

"The amount of undecided delegates is much bigger than people realize, leaving a large gap for any candidate," Getz said. "The forerunners have failed to convince a very large percentage of the electorate."

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