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Massachusetts Democrats need to rebuild faith in liberal values if they are to succeed in this fall's gubernatorial elections, Lt. Gov. Evelyn F. Murphy told a crowd of about 150 Harvard supporters last night.
Bringing her underdog campaign to the Graduate School of Education's Longfellow Hall, Murphy said that despite recent attacks from the right, liberal Democratic values are the mostly effective way to address the state's fiscal and social woes.
"This race is about the soul of the Democratic party," Murphy said. "I will not let Roger Ailes and George Bush define our party."
"I am here to say tonight that I am a liberal," Murphy said.
Murphy, who trails Democratic frontrunner Francis X. Bellotti by a wide margin in most polls, said that many of her rivals want to "turn our party into a shadow of the Republican party," saying they had "ducked for cover" on liberal issues.
In contrast, Murphy called attention to her strong record on key Democratic issues, particularly her support for abortion rights and opposition to the death penalty.
"I oppose the death penalty not because I am soft on crime, but because I am strong for justice," Murphy said.
Murphy also called for stiff tax hikes to help close the state's rapidly increasing budget deficit, which currently stands at nearly $800 million. Members of the middle class have borne the brunt of the worsened economic conditions and "have a right to feel resentful," she said.
"I understand taxpayers who are angry--they want to know what happened to the Massachusetts miracle," she said. "I understand the anger...I've had to pay medical bills."
"I'm going to tell you the truth about the decisions that have to be made, and yes, I'm even going to say 'taxes' out loud," she said.
The candidate also voiced strong support for the state's landmark universal health-care system, saying she wanted to ensure that senior citizens do not have to "worry about being impoverished in order to get medical care, and don't have to choose between food bills and medical bills."
Murphy, who entered state politics as Gov. Michael S. Dukakis's secretary for environmental affairs in 1975, also said she would back a "zero-pollution initiative."
In a reference to one of the 1988 presidential race's most effective ads, Murphy lashed out at President Bush's credentials as an environmentalist.
"We saw that...president come to Boston Harbor, sit in a boat, look around, and say it was polluted, and not put one penny in his budget to clean it up," she said.
Murphy ended by inviting the audience to visit her office if she is elected. "Come in, sit down, put your feet up on a governor's desk and feel that you own it as much as I do," she told them.
The crowd chanted "Murph! Murph!" and "Ev! Ev!" as she left the hall. She talked with television reporters outside for about 10 minutes before climbing into a Voyager minivan and driving off to her next campaign stop.
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