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Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey — flanked by her mother, Shirley Murphy, and mother-in-law, Yvonne Healey (right) — made her way to the podium at Omni Parker House yesterday to announce her bid to become governor of Massachusetts.
Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey — flanked by her mother, Shirley Murphy, and mother-in-law, Yvonne Healey (right) — made her way to the podium at Omni Parker House yesterday to announce her bid to become governor of Massachusetts. (David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff)

Healey launches drive for governor

Vows to battle tax increases

Embracing a strategy that has worked for the past three Republican candidates, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey officially launched her bid for governor yesterday by promising to ''stand up to the tax-and-spend attitude of the Democratic Legislature."

''Democracy demands more than one voice, more than one party to govern," Healey told hundreds of supporters packed into a ballroom at the Omni Parker House in downtown Boston. ''As governor, I would . . . maintain the voice of taxpayers on Beacon Hill."

Former governors William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci and current Governor Mitt Romney all ran for the corner office promising to hold the Democrat-dominated Legislature in check. The Democrats have not held the state's top job since Michael S. Dukakis left office in 1991.

Healey's announcement was no surprise; the 45-year-old Beverly resident has been the leading candidate for the Republican nomination since Romney announced at the end of last year that he would not seek reelection. Businessman Christy P. Mihos is also running for the GOP nomination, but he has not ruled out an independent candidacy.

Healey's husband, Sean, has made millions of dollars as president and chief executive of Affiliated Managers Group, a Beverly-based asset management company, and the couple owns five houses worth a total of $9 million. But to counter Democratic candidates Thomas F. Reilly and Deval L. Patrick, who often talk about their hardscrabble childhoods, Healey reminded the crowd that gathered at her announcement that she didn't grow up rich.

When she was 15, Healey recalled, her father had a heart attack that prevented him from working again, and her mother was a public school teacher. As a result, ''there was rarely such a thing as extra money in the family budget. But the upside of that was the special pride of working as a family to make the most of what we had."

As a high school student Healey said she had to work to save money for college, and she continued working during her college years to cover tuition. She graduated from Harvard College in 1982 and has a doctorate in political science and law from Trinity College in Dublin.

Healey's father, Ted Murphy, died last year, but she was joined onstage yesterday by her mother, Shirley Murphy. Healey's husband, two children, and mother-in-law also sat behind her. The hotel ballroom was decorated with red, white, and blue bunting, and music from the four-piece New Liberty Jazz Band gave the event an old-fashioned feel.

As lieutenant governor, Healey has focused on public safety issues -- she is the author of four books on criminal justice -- and has served as Romney's liaison to mayors and city managers. To highlight that experience, she was introduced by Mayor John Bell of Gloucester, a Democrat, and Ron Bersani, an activist against drunken driving who led the fight last year for Melanie's Law, which is named for his granddaughter.

Unlike Romney, Healey supports abortion rights and civil unions for gay couples. She didn't use the word ''moderate" or explicitly break with the governor on those hot-button issues yesterday, but she did seem eager to portray herself as a Republican who isn't interested in cutting social programs.

''The true character of any society is seen in how it treats the sick, the weak, or the voiceless. They are not a problem for us -- they are a priority," she said. ''We pride ourselves on compassionate government in Massachusetts, on helping those who cannot help themselves. And this moral commitment -- this bipartisan moral commitment -- will guide us as well in my administration as we face the challenges of protecting children, housing the homeless, and caring for the elderly."

Pointing to the state's fiscal recovery, a lower unemployment rate, and an increase in housing starts, Healey said the ''years under Romney's leadership have been good for the Commonwealth."

But Philip W. Johnston, chairman of the state Democratic party, said that Massachusetts is the only state in the union that has lost population for the past two years and that the state still hasn't recovered all of the jobs it lost during the recent recession. Given that record, he said, ''Kerry Healey should be joining Mitt Romney on his exodus from the state."

Healey is trying to become the first woman elected governor of the state. Barbara Lee, who heads a nonpartisan foundation that has commissioned research on the barriers faced by female candidates, said, ''men are presumed to be qualified for the job, and women have to prove it -- even someone who has been lieutenant governor." She said Healey is wise to emphasize Melanie's Law.

''The women who have been successful in governor's races usually have some issue where they've gone to bat on behalf of citizens, and citizens remember it," she said.

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