SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election

October 27, 2010

Harshbarger: Baker memo shows misdeeds in '98 race

BOSTON — A memo Swampscott Republican Charles Baker wrote 12 years ago sounding alarms about state transportation financing has not only shaken up this year's Massachusetts gubernatorial race but rekindled a debate about the outcome of the 1998 campaign.

In a mass e-mail this week, Democrat Scott Harshbarger — who as attorney general lost the 1998 race to acting Gov. Paul Cellucci — said Baker's secret warning about skyrocketing Big Dig costs and their effect on other transportation projects bolstered his own campaign criticisms.

And Harshbarger said Baker's recommendation the administration undertake "draconian" measures — yet only after the election — belie Cellucci's 1998 statements that the Big Dig was "on time and on budget." During that campaign, Baker was winding down his tenure as Cellucci's administration and finance secretary, or budget chief.

Harshbarger, now a Boston attorney, said in an e-mail Monday to a group of reporters and former campaign advisers: "Forgive me for this comment, please, but the 'scar' has not yet fully healed, I guess." He consented to the e-mail's publication during a conversation with The Associated Press.

"Can I now officially complain about the coverage of this issue in 1998?" he wrote. "My recollection is that we repeatedly pointed out, and challenged, that the Cellucci claim that the Big Dig was 'on time and on budget' was BS, and warned of consequences?"

Harshbarger went on to concede "other factors" may well have cost him victory, "but that's my story and I'll stick to it."

Then, in a jab at Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and former House Speaker Thomas Finneran of Boston, two fellow Democrats who nonetheless were lackluster in backing his candidacy, Harshbarger claimed he lost by fewer than 3 percentage points, "which still may still exist in ballots tucked away in City Hall, given the 'support' I had from the mayor and the speaker!"

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