NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (AP) — The leading Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates agreed Saturday on a single point: The state will take a different direction if the other one is elected.
Republican Charles Baker said re-electing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick will thwart any enthusiasm to overhaul state government amid the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"You know that we have a choice in three days," he told a crowd of about 500 gathered in crisp fall air on a traditional New England town common in Foxborough. "We can choose four more years of Governor Patrick, four more years of no reform on Beacon Hill."
Voice rising to a yell, Baker added: "Or you can choose four years of reform and restructuring Beacon Hill. Four years of taking on the special interests on Beacon Hill. Four years of fighting for the people who pay the bills: You."
Patrick, climbing on a stage with young children in the seaside city of Newbury, cast the race as a battle between two different visions of government leadership: one warm enough to embrace humanity, and one too cold to see beyond the financial ledger.
Matching Baker's yell, Patrick said, "If you believe that government is about people, not abstract policy, that government is about neighbors, not numbers, this is your team."
The yelling and rhetorical flourishes highlighted a race in which neither campaign has tremendous confidence. Baker aides claimed absentee ballot returns were strongest in communities where Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican, won the governorship in 2002. Patrick's aides cited internal polling showing a narrow lead for them.
Both sides agreed turnout on Tuesday would be critical, with the GOP especially claiming momentum from anti-incumbent sentiment fueled by a backlash that has President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party headed for likely congressional losses in the midterm elections.
"I think we need a change," Ray Fuller, a 53-year-old auto parts salesman from Foxborough, said as he held a Baker sign.
The self-described political independent said: "When Deval came in, he said we needed a change and things aren't better. So, let's go the change way again. And I think we really need the check-and-balance on the Democratic Legislature."
Anne Mulvey, a public university professor from Newburyport, embraced Patrick's focus on people.
"I like that he's concerned about all people — and people first," she said. "I think you can do that and still care about the bottom line."
Two other candidates could factor into the final calculus. Independent Timothy Cahill is running in single digits in most recent polls after the defection of his running mate and three top advisers. Nonetheless, he potentially could pull enough fiscal conservative support from Baker to allow Patrick to win with less than a majority of the vote.
Meanwhile, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein has been running in low single digits, but any vote for her and her clean energy, single-payer health care agenda could be expected to draw from Patrick's liberal base.
While Baker and Patrick are barnstorming the state this weekend, Cahill is saving money by visiting downtowns, coffee shops and soccer fields in the suburban Boston belt. Stein has few, if any, public appearances.
Baker took the stage in Foxborough with a slate of Republicans hoping to win in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts: Sean Bielat, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Barney Frank; Karyn Polito, running for state treasurer; Mary Connaughton, candidate for state auditor; and James McKenna, candidate for attorney general.
They were led by U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, a former state senator from nearby Wrentham whose upset win in January's special election to replace the late Democrat Edward M. Kennedy invigorated the GOP across the country.
"You have an opportunity, right now, in a couple of days, to send a very, very powerful message," said Brown, invoking some of the scandals that have touched the Statehouse. "That you're tired of the three speakers that have been indicted. That you're tired of the senator putting money down her shirt. You're tired of the overspending, the overtaxation, the complete lack of attention to the one thing that can get us going again, and that's jobs."
Patrick appeared in Newburyport with local politicians including Sen. Steve Baddour, Rep. Michael Costello and U.S. Rep. John Tierney, who is facing his own tough re-election campaign.
The governor accused Baker of harming the state with his campaign rhetoric.
"Listen closely to Charlie Baker day after day after day tear down and talk down the commonwealth of Massachusetts," Patrick said. "We need to be about looking up and moving forward, and that's where we're going."
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