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A nearly two-year Massachusetts gubernatorial race wound down Tuesday, as candidates stopped campaigning and the public began voting in a race alternately predicted to result in the first two-term Democratic governor since Michael S. Dukakis in 1986 - or a return to Republican leadership after a four-year hiatus.
Gov. Deval Patrick sought to fend off a pro-GOP, anti-incumbent wave that threatened his colleagues in 37 races across the nation, while challenger Charles Baker sought to take advantage of that tide.
Independent candidate Timothy Cahill mounted a spirited campaign until the end, but pre-election polling relegated him to second-tier status with Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein.
Voting booths opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m. across the state's 351 cities and towns. Secretary of State William F. Galvin predicted a near-record turnout amid clear and dry fall weather, citing strong absentee balloting.
Republicans were especially invigorated in a traditionally Democratic state, anxious to build on momentum created when state Sen. Scott Brown upset Attorney General Martha Coakley in January to claim the U.S. Senate seat held for nearly a half-century by liberal lion Edward M. Kennedy.
The national party sought several trophy wins, targeting Patrick because he shares Chicago roots and consultant ties with President Barack Obama; Rep. Barney Frank with upstart Sean Bielat after the veteran congressman spearheaded financial regulation legislation, and; bolstering state Rep. Jeff Perry in his bid to claim the House seat encompassing the Cape Cod district where Kennedy himself used to vote.
State Republicans focused on Baker, but they also set their sights on gains in the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature, as well by treasurer candidate Karyn Polito, auditor candidate Mary Connaughton and James McKenna, who won a write-in primary campaign for attorney general in a bid to hand Coakley her second electoral loss this year.
Patrick's closing remarks harkened back to his victory four years ago, when he presaged Obama's 2008 White House win by running an emotional, outsider's campaign focused on hope and humanity.
"I knew four years ago that we would face headwinds," Patrick told a Monday evening rally crowd in the city's Roslindale neighborhood. "I knew that we'd have the headwinds that come with being a newcomer, trying to break in and trying to move the ball forward and trying to change the way business is done on Beacon Hill. What I didn't expect was a global economic collapse that would sweep Massachusetts up as it has the whole country."
Gathering himself, he mentioned his lieutenant governor as he added: "Let me tell you one thing Tim Murray and I didn't do: We didn't cut and run like a whole bunch of folks who had this job before us. We stood right with you."
Patrick's election in 2006 broke a 16-year run of Republican governors pockmarked by the resignations of William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci, and the decision by former Gov. Mitt Romney to skip seeking a second term to run for president.
Baker had a simple pitch when asked what he wanted voters to weigh when they stepped into the booth Tuesday.
"I want them to think about whether Massachusetts needs a turnaround. I'm the only turnaround candidate in the race, having done one before," he said, citing his transformation of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care from receivership to the top rankings in customer service.
Cahill, currently the state's treasurer, didn't hesitate in answering the same question.
"I want them to know I'm the candidate for the middle class. I'm going to fight for them as I've fought throughout this campaign, and I want them to have a choice, an election choice between the two-party system," he said.
The most recent polls showed Patrick and Baker close, with Cahill a distant third and Stein in the single digits. Political analysts said Patrick stood to benefit from Baker and Cahill splitting the anti-incumbent vote.
This program aired on November 2, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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