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One day after she was picked as Thomas F. Reilly’s running mate, Representative Marie St. Fleur announced yesterday she was dropping out of the race.
One day after she was picked as Thomas F. Reilly’s running mate, Representative Marie St. Fleur announced yesterday she was dropping out of the race. (Barry Chin/ Globe Staff)

Reilly's pick withdraws from race

Questions mount about St. Fleur's finances

One day after Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly chose her as his running mate, state Representative Marie St. Fleur withdrew from the campaign for lieutenant governor as questions mounted over her delinquency on federal and city taxes and her failure to keep up with her student loans.

St. Fleur, at Reilly's Boston headquarters last night, read a statement saying she was withdrawing from the race because her family was not prepared for the scrutiny they had undergone during the previous 24 hours.

''My family is the most important part of my life," St. Fleur told reporters. ''They have not been prepared for this."

''Yesterday was one of the best days of my life, and today has been one of the most difficult," she said.

The announcement culminated a furious day of meetings and public criticism after the Globe reported that St. Fleur has had three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, including an April 2005 federal tax lien of $12,711 against her and her husband. She also disclosed that she also owes $40,000 in delinquent federally backed student loans.

Reilly had turned to St. Fleur, a Haitian-American lawmaker from Dorchester seen as a rising star in Massachusetts politics, as his choice to be his running mate over the weekend. He never asked her for details about her financial situation, even though she said she had briefly mentioned to him that she had ''some financial issues" with taxes and student loans.

Yesterday, revelations of St. Fleur's financial problems prompted Reilly's rival for the Democratic nomination, Deval Patrick, to make public a tax problem that he and his wife, Diane, faced some 10 years ago, in which they failed to make payments on a $8,788 federal tax lien. Patrick said that they paid off the balance and that the lien was discharged.

Reilly canceled a campaign appearance in Framingham yesterday and was not available to answer questions about St. Fleur.

In a statement released by his campaign yesterday, Reilly said: ''I have a great respect for Marie St. Fleur. I appreciate that her primary interest is in protecting her family."

His top campaign advisers acknowledged that Reilly would be politically damaged by the events over St. Fleur, but expressed confidence he could recover.

''This was a pretty big pothole, but it didn't blow the tires," said Alan Solomont, a leading Democratic fund-raiser who is chairing Reilly's finance committee. ''There is a long way to go in this campaign. Every campaign runs into bumps along the road. . . . Tom can absolutely get beyond this."

When approached by the Globe Tuesday, St. Fleur said that she had paid down the federal tax debt to about $8,000 by making $500 monthly payments since last spring. But later, Corey Welford, a Reilly campaign spokesman, corrected her, saying that she had in fact made only one $500 payment last May and that the balance is still more than $12,000.

On Tuesday, Reilly announced that he had chosen St. Fleur to join him on a ticket for the Democratic primary. Reilly and St. Fleur appeared together in Dorchester to make the announcement, with banners displaying a Reilly/St. Fleur For Massachusetts logo. ''I am ready to go to work," she said.

But within 24 hours the team was unraveling. Reilly advisers were insisting that St. Fleur had to step down, campaign sources said. At first, St. Fleur's confidants said she was intent on toughing it out, but relented as details emerged about her finances yesterday.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles disclosed that it put St. Fleur's driver's license into ''nonrenewal" status late last year because she failed to pay excise taxes to the city of Boston in 2005.

As a result, St. Fleur would be unable to renew her driver's license this year until she paid back the tax she owed.

In his statement, Reilly said he will make no further attempt to create a ticket for the Sept. 19 party primary.

The Democratic field for a second spot on the ticket includes: Mayor Timothy P. Murray of Worcester; Deborah Goldberg, a former Brookline selectwoman whose family founded Stop & Shop; Andrea Silbert of Harwich, the cofounder of a nonprofit training center for entrepreneurs; and a Cohasset psychiatrist, Sam Kelley. Candidates for lieutenant governor run separately from candidates for governor in the primary.

US Representative Michael E. Capuano of Somerville, who said he admired St. Fleur, said Reilly's effort to create a ticket confirms his conviction that the selection should be made by the voters and ''not the big shots."

''I would hope this reminds us what the Democratic Party is all about," Capuano, a Democrat whose district includes St. Fleur's legislative district. ''This is a democracy. I would hope that the voters will decide."

''We are Democrats, and we are not supposed to do it from the top down, but the bottom up. In the general absence of some overwhelming reason, l would argue, let the voters decide, not the big shots."

As Reilly pondered what to do in face of the revelations about St. Fleur, leading Democrats yesterday expressed concern that St. Fleur's tax problem were particularly troublesome for Reilly because his office is pursuing a civil case against state Senator Dianne Wilkerson concerning campaign-finance allegations. The suit alleges that her campaign committee has paid out more than $70,000 in questionable donations and expenses.

St. Fleur was forced to pay a $750 fine in 2003 by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for attempting to sell her private car to her campaign committee for $13,000, while continuing to drive it for personal use.

Furthermore, St. Fleur's presence on the Democratic ticket in the general election would have made it difficult for Reilly or the state party to attack Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, over a special tax break that had been granted to her husband's investment firm.

Affiliated Managers Group, under a program to promote development in distressed areas, was given a $1.2 million state tax break for locating in the Prides Crossing section of Beverly, one of the wealthiest communities in the state. The firm returned the money in October after the Globe reported on the issue.

RELATED CONTENT:
 Democrats jumped gun on Gabrieli (Boston Globe, 2/4/06)
 Reilly's pick withdraws from race (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
 Patrick divulges 1996 tax lien (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
 Reilly picks St. Fleur for campaign (Boston Globe, 1/31/06)
STATEMENTS:  Tom Reilly (2/1/06)  Marie St. Fleur (2/1/06)
COMMENTARY:
 BRIAN MCGRORY: Political malpractice (Boston Globe, 2/3/06)
 SCOT LEHIGH: A taxing week for Democrats (Boston Globe, 2/3/06)
 ADRIAN WALKER: Strange missteps (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
 JOAN VENNOCHI: Reilly's judgment is suddenly suspect (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
 GLOBE EDITORIAL: Encumbered candidates (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
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