Down ballot drama

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  March 10, 2010

But even if he has been an outsider at the State House, he still has a record that Mollis can mine. And the secretary, who has brought on lobbyist Rick McAuliffe to boost his lagging fundraising operation, hasn't made any mistakes of note in office.

In a down ballot race that seems destined to get little attention in the press, observers say, it'll be difficult for a challenger to make inroads without a big screw-up to highlight — even in a toxic political climate.

 FEAT031210_Roberts
Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

After passing on races for governor and Congress, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts is seeking another term. And she'll be tough to beat.

Roberts, who has placed an emphasis on health care and small business during her first term, will have trouble pointing to any grand accomplishments — a problem that is largely a function of an office with little power. And her poll numbers, like those of all elected officials, are down.

But it is a sign of her political strength that no Democrat has announced a challenge to her yet. Jeremy Kapstein, a Red Sox adviser with Rhode Island roots, has floated his name. And he could bring some money to the race. But he is largely unknown. And if Roberts sails through to the general election, it's hard to see how an opponent makes the case for an ouster.

Moderate Party candidate Jean Ann W. Guliano will try. She's pledging to transform the office. Candidates for lieutenant governor run independently of governors in this state — and are largely powerless as a result, critics say, when they land in office. Guliano is running on a ticket with Moderate Party gubernatorial candidate Ken Block and says she will be a true partner when the pair land in office.

But convincing voters that Block can win a gubernatorial race peopled by well-financed heavy hitters will be tough. And Guliano will have to contend, for the mantle of reformer, with Cool Moose Party founder Robert J. Healey Jr., who is once again running for the post he detests.

Healey's platform: abolish, or radically change, the $1 million-per-year office. It's an interesting message in a year of voter rage. Cicione, of the GOP, says the party might even endorse Healey this time around.

But it's hard to see how he actually beats Roberts. And if the lieutenant governor, who has patiently climbed the rungs, wins re-election, then an established politician could suddenly look like something more: one of perhaps two women in a new leadership class that looks quite different than that of old.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at dscharfenberg@phx.com.

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