State Sen. Benjamin Downing, left, coordinator Josh Hochberg, Paul Mark, Tom Bower, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Rep. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray joined local Democrats on Monday to kick off the final leg of the 2010 campaign season.
Some 75 party members and officials were on hand to open the campaign office at 31 South St., just recently the headquarters for Tom Bowler's successful campaign for sheriff.
"We forged some tremendous and wonderful friendships - we hope everlasting friendships - we developed some fantastic partnerships working from this location," said Bowler. "We wish the coordinating campaign all the success on Nov. 2 that we did on Sept. 14."
The get-out-the-vote drive may have greater significance on the statewide level where recent polls have Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican challenger Charles Baker in a dead heat than at the local level.
In the heavily Democratic Berkshires, the 1st Berkshire District and county sheriff were decided primary night when no Republicans chose to run. Going into the general election, only Democratic nominee Paul Mark of Hancock has a GOP opponent, Michael Case of Washington; both Reps. Christopher Speranzo of the 3rd District and William "Smitty" Pignatelli in the 4th District will be vying against Green/Rainbow Party candidates Mark C. Miller and Scott Lee Laugenour, respectively.
Patrick, on the other hand, is working hard to fend off Baker, former head of Harvard Pilgrim; Murray's opponent is Richard Tisei, state Senate minority leader. Trailing behind are Treasurer Timothy Cahill, running as an independent, and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein for governor and Stein's running mate Richard Purcell for lieutenant governor. (Cahill's running mate Paul Loscocco jumped ship last week.)
Murray speaks with Mary K. O'Brien.
Murray reminded those present that he was selected by them, not the governor, but kept his sharpest comments for Patrick's opponent. Baker, a state budget secretary in the 1990s, is running on his fiscal acumen, but Murray dismissed his reputation, saying he raised insurance premiums 150 percent while at Harvard Pilgrim and pointed to his role in the state's modern symbol of waste and fraud.
"The architect of the Big Dig financing plan now wants to be your governor," he told the appreciative crowd.
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, who is facing Republican Bill Gunn, was supposed to attend but had to cancel. Also missing was Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was in Lee that morning and at The Berkshire Eagle in the afternoon, and Suzanne Bump of Great Barrington, who's running for auditor.
Olver's campaign manager Debra Guachione stepped in to make a pitch for the entire Democratic ticket. "Only four years ago, we broke a 16-year chain of Republican leadership," she said of Patrick and Murray. "Those governors wanted to be in Mexico, Canada, Washington and New York — not Massachusetts."
Murray said Patrick had the perfect cover for the leaving the state during its worst years: "The president of the United States asked me serve."
"But he didn't. He didn't cut and run," the former Worcester mayor continued.
Downing, a former Olver staffer, said it was important to return the Amherst professor to office.
"We need him to continue to be our voice on Capitol Hill," said Downing. "When Democrats remain in power in 2010 and when we make sure the president's agenda isn't stalled by a party that just wants to say no to anything."
In addition to the candidates, the local party members attending included Mary K. O'Brien; Mayor James M. Ruberto, who gave a passionate plug for his friend Patrick; former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, who has been a strong backer of his former mayoral colleague Murray; Daniel Bianchi; Sherwood Guernsey; and Pittsfield Councilors President Gerald Lee, Christine Yon and Melissa Mazzeo.
Field organizer Josh Hochberg said the vote drive would depend on "friend banks," to prevent people from being inundated with phone calls.
"Open up your cell phone, open up your address book and call your friends," he said.