QUINCY -- As state Democrats gathered in caucuses today to begin electing the delegates who will eventually choose the candidates for the primary ballot, former Democrat Timothy P. Cahill stood on a bench outside his Quincy headquarters and asked for help bypassing that system.
"We're avoiding all of that party business," said Cahill, the state treasurer and an independent candidate for governor, addressing a crowd that spilled into the main lobby at the formal opening of his campaign office. "We're avoiding all of these special interests, and we're going right to the people."
Cahill can avoid the primaries and go right to the November ballot by gathering 10,000 certified signatures from registered voters. He asked the crowd to day to help him reach that figure well before the August deadline.
The cheering hall of more than 200 seemed ready to oblige, calling out "Go, Tim, go!", a cry reminiscent of the "Go, Scott, Go!" cheers that followed once-little-known state lawmaker Scott Brown in his upset bid last month in the special election for U.S. Senate.
Cahill said Brown's candidacy, which successfully captured the anti-government and anti-establishment sentiments of many middle-class voters frustrated by the recession, changed the way other candidates and voters view his campaign: not as a quixotic quest to become the first candidate outside the party system to be elected governor of Massachusetts, but as an independent, free of the baggage of the Democratic and Republican establishment.
"This race, and people's perceptions of me and this campaign, has changed dramatically since Jan. 19," Cahill told reporters. "Where Scott Brown was defining himself as an independent Republican, I'm an independent independent."
Like Brown, Cahill said he wants to cut taxes on individuals and businesses to help revive the economy, and he talked about ending "business as usual" and taking government back from those in power, in the name of the people.
Cahill's running mate, Paul J.P. Loscocco, touted Cahill as an established conservative on taxes and spending.
"Tim is not somebody that's been around recently singing 'fiscal responsibility.' He's been somebody with a strong record," said Loscocco, a former Republican state representative from Holliston who, like Cahill, changed his registration to unenrolled recently. "He's about fiscal responsibility, about making the tough decisions, about bringing some accountability to government on Beacon Hill."
But the 51-year-old Cahill, a registered Democrat from age 18 until last summer, made it clear he was not positioning himself as a Republican. He said no party claims ownership on the push for lower taxes and restrained government, and he said he welcomes Martha Coakley supporters as well as Brown voters.
Cahill is running in a field that includes the Democratic incumbent, Governor Deval Patrick, as well as Republican candidates Charles D. Baker Jr. and Christy Mihos. Although the inspirational quotes on the white boards in Cahill's office included one from Patrick -- "If he wants to run, he's going to have to bring his A game" -- Cahill avoided talking about the others specifically today, saying, "It's not going to be about tearing the other guy down, it's really about trying to get as many votes as you can and convince as many people as you can that your message is the right message."
But just to be clear, he told reporters, he's got the inside track on the Brown-style message. "We're all calling ourselves independents now, but there really is only one true independent in the race, someone who left the party before it became fashionable."
The gathering included members of both parties and unenrolled voters; it was heavy on residents of Quincy, Cahill's longtime home, but included people from a variety of communities. Supporters also tuned in through web cams, with a bank of laptops on a side table representing live gatherings in Springfield, Holliston, and other locations.
The campaign estimated that nearly 1,000 people came through the doors during the five-hour open house, and about a quarter of that number was on hand when Cahill spoke in late morning. He spent most of the day drifting through his suite of campaign offices and the lobby of the refurbished candy factory-turned-office-building, greeting old friends and newer supporters over coffee, doughnuts, and muffins.
Cahill faces obvious obstacles as an independent -- among other things, he does not have access to either party's valuable database of voters -- but his message resonates with people, said James Sheets, who served six terms as mayor of Quincy and is also a former Democratic state representative.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Sheets, a Cahill supporter who broke with his party to endorse Brown last month. "People are going to vote to take their government back."
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more