Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 2002
|Elections in Massachusetts|
The Massachusetts gubernatorial election of 2002 was held on November 5, 2002. Republican businessman and eventual 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney defeated Democratic State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, and was elected to a four-year term, which he served from January 2, 2003 until January 4, 2007. Every four years, Massachusetts holds statewide elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Commonwealth, State Treasurer, and Auditor. The primary election was September 17, 2002.
In 2002, Republican Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift was expected to campaign for the governor's office, and she had said she would in October 2001. Swift had been serving as acting governor after Republican Governor Paul Cellucci resigned upon being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Canada. However, Swift was viewed as an unpopular executive, and her administration was plagued by political missteps and personal and ethical controversies. Many Republicans viewed her as a liability and considered her unable to win a general election against a Democrat.
Prominent GOP activists campaigned to persuade businessman Mitt Romney, who had previously run for the U.S. Senate from the state, to run for governor. Romney was coming off a successful stint as head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games of 2002 and was also mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor of Utah. Romney had previously indicated in fall 2001 that he would not challenge a sitting Republican in running for the Massachusetts governorship, and thus was in a delicate position. Massachusetts Republican State Committee chair Kerry Healey had flown to Utah to personally assess Romney's intentions. On March 17, Romney flew into Massachusetts; a Boston Herald poll showed him defeating Swift by a 75 percent to 12 percent margin in a Republican primary. On March 19, 2002, Swift declared that she had decided not to seek her party's nomination, citing family reasons and also saying "I believe that this is in the best interest of our state, as it will allow the Republican Party's best chances of holding the governor's office in November." Three hours later, Romney announced his candidacy. Romney was subsequently unopposed in the Republican party primary.
Massachusetts Democratic Party officials claimed that Romney was ineligible to run for governor, citing residency issues. The Massachusetts Constitution requires that a gubernatorial candidate be an "inhabitant" for seven consecutive years prior to a run for office. Romney had claimed residency in Utah from 1999 to 2002, during his time as president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. He had thus gotten a $54,000 property tax break there (which he now offered to pay back). In 1999 he had listed himself as a part-time Massachusetts resident, and now said that he had planned to return to Massachusetts (where he had gone to business and law school and had spent his entire business career until taking over the Olympics) all along. On June 8, 2002, the Massachusetts Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Massachusetts State Ballot Law Commission. That body, at the time which comprised three Republicans, one Democrat and one independent, had always tended to be lenient in its interpretations of the requirements for residency. It unanimously ruled on June 25, 2002, that Romney was eligible to run for office, saying that "[Romney] never severed his ties to Massachusetts [and] his testimony was credible in all respects." The ruling was not challenged in court, and the whole matter engendered sympathy for Romney, who accused the Democrats of playing "ridiculous, dirty politics".
|Poll source||Dates administered||Mitt Romney||Jane M. Swift|
|Boston Herald||March 17, 2002||77%||12%|
Jim Rappaport, the Republican nominee for United States Senate in 1990 and a political adversary of Jane Swift, was the first Republican to declare his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. Swift named Patrick Guerriero, her deputy chief of staff (who was openly gay), as her running mate. Guerriero was the nation's first openly gay candidate for lieutenant governor. He was chosen by Swift after Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II, Registrar of Motor Vehicles Daniel Grabauskas, Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins, and Massachusetts Turnpike Authority member Christy Mihos declined to run with Swift.
Kerry Healey, former Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party was selected by Mitt Romney to be his running mate. Shortly after Romney's endorsement of Healey, Guerriero dropped out of the race and gave his support to Healey. Rappaport remained in the race and lost to Healey in the Republican primary.
There was a five-way battle for the Democratic nomination for governor, contested among Massachusetts State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, President of the Massachusetts Senate Thomas Birmingham, former Democratic National Committee and American Israel Public Affairs Committee chair Steven Grossman, former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and former nominee for lieutenant governor Warren Tolman.
The leader in most of the polls conducted was O'Brien, who was a longtime insider with four generations of heritage in the Beacon Hill political establishment. However, she faced criticism for some of the losing investments she had made as state treasurer. Reich's candidacy attracted considerable media attention, especially due to the 1997 publication of his memoir of working for the Clinton administration, Locked in the Cabinet. Reich had received criticism for embellishing events with invented dialogue, and the book had so angered Bill Clinton that he endorsed Grossman instead. Of the Democrats running, all but Tolman opted out of Clean Elections funding.
In the September 17, 2002, primary, O'Brien won with 33 percent of the vote; Reich came in second with 25 percent, followed by 24 percent for Birmingham and 18 percent for Tolman (Grossman had dropped out before then).
|Poll source||Dates administered||Shannon O'Brien||Tom Birmingham||Robert Reich||Warren Tolman|
|Boston Globe/WBZ-TV||September 13, 2002||31%||22%||22%||13%|
The Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor was a three-way battle between businessman Chris Gabrieli, state representative John P. Slattery, and former State Senator Lois Pines. Gabrieli was the running mate of Shannon O'Brien while Slattery and Pines were not affiliated with any candidate. Stephen Lynch was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, but dropped out of the race when Congressman Joe Moakley announced he was not running for reelection and Lynch decided to run to succeed him. State Senator Cheryl A. Jacques was also a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, but dropped out of the race to run in the special election in Massachusetts's 9th congressional district. Sarah Cannon Holden also ran for Lieutenant Governor, but did not receive enough support at the Democratic Convention to make the primary ballot.
|Democratic||John P. Slattery||150,313||22.68|
O'Brien's campaign was hobbled by the short amount of time between the primary and the general election and by her having exhausted most of her funds by spending $4.5 million to win the nomination. She focused her attacks by portraying Romney as being out of place in Massachusetts. Romney had stumbled earlier in the year by not knowing that "MCAS" stood for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System of school exams. To soften his image of being rich and privileged and a wealthy corporate buyout specialist out of touch with the needs of regular people – an image that had damaged him in his 1994 U.S. Senate race – a series of "work days" had been staged over the summer, in which Romney performed blue-collar jobs such as herding cows and baling hay, unloading a fishing boat, and hauling garbage. Television ads highlighting the effort, as well as one portraying his family in gushing terms and showing him shirtless, received a poor public response. O'Brien now said in response that "Massachusetts doesn't need a governor who thinks getting in touch with working people is a costume party." She said Romney was "trying to mask a very conservative set of belief systems"; while saying she would not criticize his membership in the LDS Church, she attacked his substantial donations to Brigham Young University, objecting to their bar on expressions of homosexuality. O'Brien came out in support of same-sex marriage. Romney declared support for faith-based initiatives. Romney campaigned as a pro-choice candidate who would protect a woman's right to an abortion, and he rejected the endorsement of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, a pro-life organization.
Romney ran as a political outsider, just as he had in the 1994 U.S. Senate election, and as an agent of change, saying he would "clean up the mess on Beacon Hill." He said he was "not a partisan Republican" but rather a "moderate" with "progressive" views (although John W. Sears and several other state Republicans would later say Romney was from the more conservative side of the Massachusetts party).
Supporters of Romney hailed his business record, especially his success with the 2002 Olympics, as that of one who would be able to bring a new era of efficiency into Massachusetts politics. He proposed to reorganize the state government and stressed his ability to obtain federal funds for the state. Romney said he would cut $1 billion out of the $23 billion state budget by eliminating the usual suspects of waste, fraud, and mismanagement while still reducing taxes over a phased period. He also said he was generally against tax increases, but refused to rule out the possibility; he did attempt to paint O'Brien as a 'tax-and-spend liberal'. Romney contributed over $6 million to his own campaign during the election, a state record at the time. He raised nearly $10 million for his campaign overall. His campaign was the first to use microtargeting techniques, in which fine-grained groups of voters were reached with narrowly tailored messaging.
Jill Stein, internist at Simmons College Health Center and resident of Lexington, Massachusetts was the Green Party nominee for Governor. She campaigned against requiring that students pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests to graduate high school, and in support of clean air and bilingual education. After being excluded from the first debate, Stein and Independent candidate Barbara Johnson sued the media organizers of the debate. Middlesex Superior Court Judge Linda Giles ruled against Stein and Johnson, stating that the state's campaign finance laws do not apply to the press organizing political debates and that the invitations to Shannon O'Brien and Mitt Romney did not constitute a campaign contribution.
Carla Howell, a candidate for United States Senate in 2000 was the Libertarian Party's candidate for governor. Howell campaigned in favor of the ballot initiative that would abolish the state's income tax and reducing the size of government and against bilingual education.
Barbara C. Johnson ran as an independent candidate. Described as a "wild card, with ideas ranging across the political spectrum", Johnson campaigned against keeping MCAS as a requirement for graduation and in favor of giving abandoned housing to its tenants.
By mid-October, the backfiring television ads had contributed to Romney being behind O'Brien in polls. He rebounded with negative ads that accused O'Brien of being a failed watchdog for state pension fund losses in the stock market, specifically featuring a basset hound sleeping as bad men removed bags of money from the Massachusetts treasury, and that associated her husband, a former lobbyist, with the Enron scandal. Debates held instanced O'Brien attacking Romney repeatedly; he ended up referring to her style as "unbecoming", which engendered criticism that he was insensitive to women.
Jill Stein's impressive performance at the October 9 debate led to speculation that she could play a spoiler in the race by siphoning votes from O'Brien. In an effort to prevent losing Democratic votes to Stein, Arlington School Committee member Paul Schlichtman purchased the rights to jillstein.org and diverted the page to omitmitt.com, which stated that "A vote for Jill Stein just brings you four more years of Weld-Cellucci-Swift-Romney-Healey business as usual." Robert Reich delivered a similar message to Democratic activists, saying that "A vote for the Green Party is in effect a vote for the Republican Party". It was also speculated that Carla Howell's could also drain conservative support from Romney. However, none of the three minor candidates proved to be a numerical factor in the race.
|Poll source||Dates administered||Republican||Democratic||Green-Rainbow||Libertarian||Independent|
|Mitt Romney||Jane M. Swift||Shannon O'Brien||Robert Reich||Tom Birmingham||Steve Grossman||Warren Tolman||William Galvin||Marty Meehan||Jill Stein||Carla Howell||Barbara Johnson|
|Boston Herald||February 18, 2001||—||23%||—||—||—||—||—||37%||—||—||—||—|
|Boston Globe||January 27, 2002||—||21%||39%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Boston Herald||February 27, 2002||38%||—||32%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Boston Herald||September 20, 2002||42%||—||45%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Institute of Politics/NECN||October 2–3, 2002||40%||—||40%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|RKM Research and Communications||October 4, 2002||42%||—||43%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Institute of Politics/NECN||October 24–27, 2002||39%||—||41%||—||—||—||—||—||—||5%||3%||3%|
|Boston Herald||October 29, 2002||38%||—||44%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|Boston Globe/WBZ||November 1, 2002||40%||—||41%||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
Romney was elected Governor in November 2002 with 50 percent of the vote over O'Brien, who received 45 percent of the vote. Other candidates included Dr. Jill Stein (G), Carla Howell (L), and Barbara Johnson (I). Ten years later, Romney and Stein would run against each other in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, with Romney finishing second behind incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama, and Stein placing fourth after Obama, Romney, and Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Romney's victory method was established by performing strongly with the (modest) Republican base vote in the state, capturing many independent voters in the belt between Route 128 and I-495, almost running even in smaller working-class cities, and holding down Democratic margins in large urban areas. The conclusion represented the fourth win in a row for Republicans in the state gubernatorial contest.
|Republican||Mitt Romney (Kerry Healey)||1,091,988||49.77||– 1.04|
|Democratic||Shannon O'Brien (Chris Gabrieli)||985,981||44.94||– 2.44|
|Green-Rainbow||Jill Stein (Tony Lorenzen)||76,530||3.49||+ 3.49|
|Libertarian||Carla Howell (Rich Aucoin)||23,044||1.05||– 0.64|
|Independent||Barbara C. Johnson (Joe Schebel)||15,335||0.70||+ 0.70|
|Total votes||2,194,179||100||+ 4.04|
|Republican hold||Swing||+ 1.40|
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