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O’Brien to Face Romney in Mass. Race

September 18, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien emerged victorious Tuesday in Massachusetts’ Democratic gubernatorial primary, setting up a November battle with GOP candidate Mitt Romney in a state that hasn’t had a Democratic governor since Michael Dukakis.

O’Brien, the Democratic front-runner for months, held off former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, state Senate President Tom Birmingham and former state Sen. Warren Tolman to win the nomination.

With 76 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, O’Brien had 188,760 votes, or 33 percent. Reich was next with 141,859 votes, or 25 percent. Birmingham and Tolman had 24 and 17 percent, respectively.

O’Brien was boosted throughout her campaign by key endorsements and money from women’s groups. Romney, the former Salt Lake City Olympics chief and son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, faced no primary opponent.

In Oklahoma, meanwhile, state Sen. Brad Henry scored a surprising runoff victory over restaurateur Vince Orza in the Democratic gubernatorial race.

Orza had finished first by 16 percentage points in the Aug. 27 primary and had been favored in the runoff. But with all precincts reporting, Henry had 135,315 votes, or 52 percent, to Orza’s 122,882, or 48 percent.

``I told your three weeks ago that we were in a perfect position to win this runoff,″ said Henry, 38. ``The pundits said we couldn’t do it. But I’m here to say we won.″

Henry advances to the November election against GOP former Rep. Steve Largent. GOP Gov. Frank Keating is barred by state law from seeking a third term.

Also in Oklahoma, former Gov. David Walters defeated lawyer Tim Boettcher for the Democratic Senate nomination. He will face GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe in November. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Walters had 146,246 votes, or 57 percent, to 110,640, or 43 percent, for Boettcher.

In Massachusetts, O’Brien is seeking to end a recent trend of GOP domination: The last Democrat to serve as governor was Dukakis, who did not seek re-election in 1990 after his failed presidential bid.

O’Brien is also trying to become the first woman elected Massachusetts governor, succeeding GOP acting Gov. Jane Swift, the lieutenant governor who moved up when Paul Cellucci was named ambassador to Canada. Swift, who was plagued by personal and political controversies, dropped out of the race hours before Romney announced his candidacy.

Reich mounted a strong campaign, but his late entry in January hurt his fund raising. Birmingham relied heavily on labor support but was linked to an unpopular Legislature at a time of falling revenue and state service cuts.

Even before the primary, O’Brien and Romney were swapping charges.

O’Brien, who is married to a former Enron lobbyist, complained that Romney’s supporters went too far by showing her photo next to disgraced Enron and WorldCom executives. She called Romney a bully _ a sensitive issue, since some accused him of ``elbowing″ Swift aside. The Romney campaign responded by calling O’Brien a bully for challenging Romney’s state residency and trying to keep him off the ballot.

Also on the gubernatorial ballot in November will be Libertarian Carla Howell and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Romney’s choice for lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, was victorious in her race against party activist James Rappaport for the GOP nod. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Healey had 123,781 votes, or 64 percent, to Rappaport’s 69,058 votes, or 36 percent.

Healey’s nomination was seen as key for Romney’s hopes in November, since some observers said a ticket of two wealthy, white businessmen would have been unelectable.

Also Tuesday:

_ In Oregon, voters decided a pair of measures to help balance the budget. One would raise the cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack to fund a state health plan for the poor and the other would give schools $150 million from a lottery-fed education fund.

_ In Washington, only one of the state’s nine House seats generated a real primary fight: Norma Smith, a one-time aide to former Rep. Jack Metcalf, battled former CIA official Herb Meyer for the GOP nomination to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen.

Update hourly