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Gov. Candidates Race to Primary

As primary looms near, O’Brien, Romney emerge as frontrunners

With the Democratic gubernatorial primary eight days away, the four remaining candidates continue to vie for the support of undecided voters.

But with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shannon P. O’Brien leading her nearest primary opponent, former Kennedy School of Government lecturer Robert B. Reich by over 10 percentage points in a recent Boston Globe/WBZ poll, it appears that the current state treasurer may be headed for victory in the Sept. 17 primary.

The poll, which also places O’Brien’s running mate, Chris Gabrieli, clearly in first place in the Democratic lieutenant governor race, is an indication of the effectiveness of O’Brien’s summer campaigning. Polls last winter and spring showed O’Brien and Reich tied for first place.

“I think the reason that my campaign is gaining momentum is that I have worked hard to maintain a positive message,” O’Brien said. “People aren’t necessarily looking for an outsider, they’re looking for someone who can get something done.”

Behind O’Brien and Reich, who were the favorites of 35 and 21 percent of those polled, respectively, State Senate President Tom Birmingham ’72 and 1998 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor Warren E. Tolman each captured 15 percent.

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In a debate at Boston University Thursday night, Birmingham chalked his lack of support up to scant attention on the part of voters.

“I think for most people who have a normal station in life, up until about now there hasn’t been a sharp focus on the campaign. But I’m very encouraged by those who have focused on the campaign and are flocking my way in great numbers,” he said. “My record is best for working people, and I believe when that message is communicated to the all of the public, the reaction will be the same—people will come my way.”

But neither Birmingham nor Tolman has appeared content to simply stress their own records—each has run television ads criticizing party opponents.

Tolman’s advertising is in large part financed by Massachusetts taxpayers, as the first gubernatorial candidate to take advantage of the “Clean Elections” law—a successful 1998 campaign finance ballot initiative.

“As a clean elections candidate, I have a special obligation to tell the truth,” Tolman said at the debate.

Reich, however, called Tolman’s negative attacks on him those of a “political hack.”

“The allegations are distortions,” Reich countered. “I don’t think there ought to be attack ads...I think it would be better if we talked about what we have done.”

In an interview afterwards with the Crimson, O’Brien concurred, citing the need for an emphasis on records and accomplishments rather than what she labeled “distortive negative ads,” referring specifically to those Birmingham has run attacking her record managing the state pension fund as treasurer.

“I really hope that [the debate] was a awakening to Mr. Reich, Mr. Birmingham and Mr. Tolman...that just attacking other people in the party is not the way [to win],” she said.

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