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Newly elected Sen. Scott Brown implored Massachusetts Republicans on Saturday to rally around gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker, saying he has the best chance of ousting a tempting target, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, a close ally of President Obama.
"The political machine that runs this state is making the same mistakes they're making in Washington," Brown, who upset the Democrats to claim a pivotal U.S. Senate vote in January, told over 3,000 delegates at the Republican State Convention.
Baker, the former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care president, was the clear favorite for gubernatorial nominee among the delegates. But convenience store magnate Christy Mihos was aiming for a primary showdown with Baker, and he needed the support of 15 percent of the delegates - about 465 people - to qualify for September's GOP ballot.
Baker aides were hopeful of avoiding a divisive and expensive primary, which would expend resources they hope to spend in a fall campaign against Patrick. They summoned former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the party's unsuccessful 2006 gubernatorial nominee, to nominate Baker. Mihos briefly left the party on 2006 to challenge Healey as an independent.
"I think he not only hurt my candidacy; I think he also hurt the candidacy of all Republican candidates on the ballot at that time," Healey said before her speech. She said Mihos "is not a loyal Republican."
The Baker camp is also trying to husband its money and energy because it faces the specter of a three-way race this fall. State Treasurer Timothy Cahill defected from the Democratic Party and has decided to run for governor as an independent.
Cahill is trying to claim the same ground as Baker as the fiscally conservative alternative to Patrick. He shook hands outside the convention hall, saying he plans to work any large crowd. He was at a Tea Party Express rally on Wednesday, and Monday he will be at the Boston Marathon.
Baker targeted both Patrick and Cahill in the text of his convention speech.
"If you like more out-of-control state spending, then vote for Deval Patrick. He's your guy! If you believe state government does not need serious reform, but more patronage and insider deals, then vote for Tim Cahill," he said. "But, if you believe, like me, that Massachusetts cannot afford four more years of tax and spend mediocrity, ... then vote for me! I'm your guy!"
A more hopeful spirit than usual permeated the DCU Center in Worcester, as the delegates basked in the glory of Brown's victory. A delegate himself four years ago as a state senator, Brown beat Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley to claim the Senate seat held for nearly a half-century by the late Edward M. Kennedy.
He reprised a familiar campaign line in his greeting to the delegates: "I'm Scott Brown. I'm from Wrentham. And I still drive a truck."
As the crowd cheered, he added: "However, this time, the truck is parked outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C."
Brown's win was part of a streak that began before Mr. Obama completed his first year in office, as Republicans won gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia. The Brown victory, propelled in part by like-minded tea party activists, was followed by the decision of several high-profile Democrats deciding against seeking re-election this midterm year.
They include U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who was targeted by conservatives after he supported Mr. Obama's health care overhaul.
"I just think the whole face of the party is changing," said Rep. Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury, a candidate for state treasurer. "Where it was aging, we now have a lot of newcomers with us today. I think this is a great time to plug into that energy and make a change in the Statehouse," she said.
The GOP is hoping its nominee can prevent Patrick from winning a second term in November. It would not only allow the party to regain the Corner Office in the Statehouse, which it held for the 16 years before Patrick won in 2006, but it would set an especially negative story line for the final two years of the term for Mr. Obama.
This program aired on April 17, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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