State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, eyeing a possible run for governor next year, is changing his political party.
Cahill, a Democrat, plans to switch his party designation to independent, or unenrolled, by the end of the week, a person with knowledge of Cahill's decision told The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity. The person wasn't authorized to speak about Cahill's plans ahead of time.
Cahill has made little secret of his ambitions for the governor's office but hasn't said whether he'll challenge Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who plans to run for a second term.
Cahill is more conservative than Patrick and would have faced an uphill fight to win the Democratic Party nomination, given that the party's primary voters tend to be more liberal than the party, or the electorate, as a whole.
Cahill had previously acknowledged that he was considering the party switch, given the daunting task of trying to unseat an incumbent Democrat.
"It's just an option that I have to consider, given I have a governor of my own party who is, as of now, planning to run for re-election," Cahill said last month.
Patrick looks forward to running for the Democratic Party's nomination next year, said Stephen Crawford, a spokesman for Patrick's political committee.
"He believes in the values and the ideals of the Democratic Party and is proud of the reform agenda that has been put forth on Beacon Hill this past year," Crawford said.
Cahill has become an increasingly vocal critic of Patrick and his administration, faulting it for failing to rein in spending sharply enough during the recession. He's suggested the state's landmark health care law, which mandates insurance coverage for virtually all residents, may be too expensive to maintain as tax revenues plunge.
He's also said the Patrick administration should think twice before moving ahead with a long-promised commuter rail project linking New Bedford and Fall River to Boston, saying the state can't afford the $1.4 billion project now.
Patrick has had his share of self-inflicted stumbles, including his attempt to give one of his early political supporters, Sen. Marian Walsh, a long-empty job at a state authority, which would have increased her salary by $100,000. Walsh later withdrew after a public outcry.
More recently Patrick has tried to reclaim his image as a reformer by pushing lawmakers to approve bills to overhaul the state's transportation, ethics and pension systems. In exchange he agreed to approve a 25 percent hike in the state sales tax after lawmakers rebuffed his attempts to increase the state gasoline tax by 19 cents per gallon.
Patrick's decision to sign the sales tax - the state's largest broad-based tax hike in two decades - could leave him vulnerable to charges of being a tax-and-spend liberal. Patrick said the state couldn't responsibly balance its budget with cuts alone.
Patrick can also claim other successes, including expanding auto insurance competition in the state, allowing civilian flaggers to direct traffic at some roadside construction sites, and the passage last year of a 10-year, $1 billion package to promote the state's life sciences industry.
The 2010 campaign for the state's top office has already begun attracting some well-known national political talent.
President Barack Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe is going to serve as a consultant to Patrick. Meanwhile, Republican consultant and commentator Dick Morris is going to assist GOP candidate Christy Mihos.
Health care executive Charles Baker also has been mentioned as a possible Republican challenger.
This program aired on July 6, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.