Gabrieli’s promise

Why Democrats should make a place for Chris Gabrieli. Plus, fixing the broken immigration system.
By EDITORIAL  |  June 2, 2006

THE RIGHT CHOICE: Gabrieli is good on education, good on economic development, good on gay marriage

If the Democrats are serious about recapturing the governor’s office in November, they should make sure their statewide convention in Worcester this weekend puts Chris Gabrieli’s name on the ballot.

New party rules require that candidates receive 15 percent of the votes cast in a one-time vote — as opposed to the previous system allowing multiple ballots — in order to qualify for a slot in September’s primary election.

As of now, only Deval Patrick, a former US assistant attorney general for civil rights during the Clinton administration, is assured of a spot. Patrick bucked the conventional wisdom with his insurgent challenge to twice-elected state attorney general Thomas Reilly. He swept the February caucuses during which many of the delegates to the Worcester convention were chosen.

Since then, onetime front-runner Reilly has been fighting for his political life. With the support of would-be kingmakers like Boston mayor Thomas Menino and Senate president Robert Travaglini, Reilly is thought by political oddsmakers to be in a position to squeak through. It’s unclear, however, whether Reilly’s supporters are trying to lower expectations in an effort to dampen Gabrieli’s campaign to woo delegates or whether Reilly is still in fact in trouble. Whatever the answer, Gabrieli’s candidacy will inject even more drama into the Democrats’ already intriguing proceedings.

A son of immigrants and a Harvard graduate, Gabrieli is a self-made multimillionaire. A long-time party activist with a reputation for being something of a policy wonk, Gabrieli has twice before unsuccessfully run for office: first for the congressional seat ultimately captured by former Somerville mayor Michael Capuano, in 1998, and then as the running mate for Democratic gubernatorial-ticket leader Shannon O’Brien, in 2002.

Gabrieli entered the race not quite eight weeks ago, after he was unceremoniously squeezed aside as Reilly’s probable running mate by the AG’s disastrous decision to tap Dorchester state senator Marie St. Fleur as his number two. News of her past tax troubles instantly forced St. Fleur from the race and further wounded Reilly, who was already bleeding from his questionable intervention in a Worcester County drunk-driving case.

Reilly’s political ineptitude added luster to Patrick’s outsider campaign, which continued to gain momentum until Gabrieli entered the race. Patrick is by no means stalled, but Gabrieli has — at least for now — muffled Patrick’s thunder with a lightning campaign financed with an estimated $2.6 million of his own money.

The candidate to beat is most likely Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy, the handpicked successor to Republican governor Mitt Romney, who — once elected — quickly turned his eyes toward a more glittering prize and is now an unannounced candidate for president. The idea of an independent candidate for governor is appealing in theory, but to date independent candidate Christy Mihos’s challenge to Healey does not suggest that he is ready or able to occupy the governor’s office.

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