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Reilly chooses female Boston representative for running mate

BOSTON --Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly chose state Rep. Marie St. Fleur to be his running mate on Monday, according to a top campaign official with personal knowledge of the decision.

St. Fleur is a Boston Democrat who is the state's first Haitian-born lawmaker. Her selection dovetails with a theme Reilly has been pounding on the campaign trail: that he connects with average voters because of his humble origins as the son of Irish immigrants.

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a law degree from Boston College, St. Fleur, 43, was first elected to the Legislature in 1999 and now serves as vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

She is closely aligned with House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, and has recently voted in favor of premium pay for House leaders, and against term limits for House speakers.

St. Fleur also voted against a ban on gay marriage, the death penalty and a Romney administration proposal to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department. She has voted in favor of in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, state assistance for stem cell research and allowing communities such as Boston to impose a 3 percent meals tax.

She also has both voted in favor of and, more recently, against a bill that would allow police officers to stop and ticket drivers not wearing a seat belt.

St. Fleur lives in Dorchester with her husband and three children.

"Marie St. Fleur is a rising star in the Democratic Party," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant. "She'll really excite the Democratic base. That said, don't pigeon hole her. She is more conserative on some social and economic issues than others, and when she talks about government providing you help but not holding your hand through life, that is different from what some Democrats espouse."

The decision follows a weekend of activity in which Reilly first appeared poised to run with millionaire businessman Chris Gabrieli. Negotiations broke down Sunday, even as Reilly's aides prepared a news conference to announce the decision.

On Monday, Reilly turned to St. Fleur, who only last week was quoted as saying she would not run because she had committed to Deborah Goldberg, a former Brookline selectwoman who has already announced her candidacy for lieutenant governor.

The Reilly-St. Fleur pairing was to be formally announced on Tuesday, the campaign official told The Associated Press.

Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, also running for the No. 2 spot, complained last week when word of the Gabrieli negotiations leaked that Reilly was reneging on a commitment not to intervene in the lieutenant governor's race. The other Democrats who have indicated they are running are Andrea Silbert of Harwich, co-founder of the Center for Women & Enterprise, and Sam Kelley, a Cohasset psychiatrist.

In Massachusetts, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately through the state primary in September. In 1990, though, William F. Weld began a string of Republican victories by announcing he was teaming up with then-state Sen. Paul Cellucci.

Former Clinton administration official Deval Patrick also is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey is seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Gov. Mitt Romney, who is not seeking a second term.

Reilly's announcement comes as the Democratic Party heads into caucuses on Saturday where activists will pick delegates to their state convention in June. Under party rules, anyone interested in seeking statewide office as a Democratic candidate also had to submit a letter of intention by Tuesday.

The selection of St. Fleur, a black woman, could also help Reilly win votes in the primary and, potentially, the general election among women who might vote for Healey, or from blacks who might vote for Patrick, a black man.

St. Fleur reached a settlement with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance in 2003 after she was found to have improperly tried to sell her car to her campaign committee. The office concluded the sale was illegal because St. Fleur had already received a per diem from the state for using the vehicle to reach the Statehouse. She was ordered to repay a $5,000 downpayment received from the committee, as well to make a $750 civil forfeiture to the state.

Healey has been assessing her own potential running mates, including U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham.

A third gubernatorial candidate, Christy Mihos, has yet to decide if he would run as a Republican or an independent. Mihos met last Thursday with Peter Blute, the former Republican congressman who most recently worked as a radio talk show host, amid speculation he might seek his own running mate.

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EDITOR'S NOTE -- Glen Johnson has covered local, state and national politics since 1985. He can be reached at glenjohnson(at)ap.org.

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