Cahill makes his pitch

State Treasurer Tim Cahill, looking to ignite his independent run for governor, is trying to grab onto some successful recent models of populism by invoking Bill Clinton’s mantra on the economy, Scott Brown’s rage against the health machine, Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down theories — and a tortured tie-in to the Red Sox way of winning championships.

Cahill, speaking at the second of four planned gubernatorial candidate forums at Suffolk University, continued his growing and nationally visible opposition to government health care mandates, both state and federal.

“Free health care is not free,” Cahill told a lunchtime crowd of students and interested officials at the forum sponsored by the Rappaport Center for Law & Public Service. “I would have more respect for Congress if they told us the truth” about the cost of the bill.

Cahill pointed out that the federal bill is based on Massachusetts four-year-old health care reform, which he claims is bankrupting the state and is unsustainable. He dismissed a study by the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that shows the state law has added less than 1 percent to the state budget — an average of $88 million a year — and scoffed at an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the $940 billion federal health law will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next decade.

‘Anyone who thinks expanding coverage to 32 million people is going to reduce the deficit doesn’t know how to add.’“Anyone who thinks expanding coverage to 32 million people is going to reduce the deficit doesn’t know how to add,” Cahill said after the forum.

Cahill spent about the majority of his time on his version of Clinton’s line, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Time and again, Cahill picked off numbers he said shows Massachusetts at a consistent competitive disadvantage when compared to other states in personal and corporate tax burden, mandates, and the treatment of capital gains. He said his vision is not to place more regulations on the private sector, such as health care, but rather to reduce the sales, income, and capital gains taxes to trigger spending.

“There’s a few things government does well, but running the economy is not one of them,” said Cahill, who has consistently come in third polling in the three-way race behind Gov. Deval Patrick and GOP contender Charlie Baker.

Cahill touted his success in running the School Building Administration, which oversees the state’s contributions and the construction of local schools. He said that when he took over the program, “there was more debt than the Big Dig” — an apparent dig at Baker, who was secretary of Administration and Finance when the Big Dig debt grew to $15 billion.

Cahill said his office forced cities and towns to scale back grandiose plans to more functional designs, which, coupled with the economy going south, produced huge savings in building costs. But he said changing the mindset wasn’t easy and patted himself on the back, as he did many times during the 90-minute forum.

“If it was easy, anyone would do it,” he said.

Suffolk Vice President John Nucci said Cahill gave a good accounting of himself but said the former Quincy City Councilor and restaurant owner could have a chance to upset the political landscape with a win only if Baker falters.

“Certain things have to happen in order for Tim to be elected,” Nucci said afterwards. “Certain things would have to happen where Charlie is not viable. If they do, then it will definitely be different for Tim. The vast majority of Baker supporters would have a second choice available to them.”

Courtney Madden, a third-year law student at Suffolk, said she came to hear a fellow “Quincy head” make his case for the governor’s office. She said she wasn’t totally convinced but likes the prospect of an independent candidate as an alternative.

“We have serious problems in this country not finding common ground,” said Madden, an unenrolled voter who places herself in the center politically and ideologically. She said she agreed with many of Cahill’s analogies to changes in Quincy, which Cahill said had been dying because of a loss of industry and needed to revitalize itself.

Cahill left the Democratic Party last year but said the extremes of both parties are feeding cynicism about the system among average voters.

“Most of us live in the middle, between the 30-yard lines, not outside the 30-yard lines,” Cahill said in his most cogent of two sports analogies.

At the outset, Cahill likened his campaign to the Red Sox 86-year quest between world championships. He gave a 10-minute historical synopsis of how the Sox for too long relied on big swinging teams that went for the fences without any concept of pitching and defense. He hailed the Sox owners who bought the team from the Yawkey Trust in 2001 and in turn changed the culture. Except he didn’t quite say how.

While he extolled the pitching and defensive additions that won the 2004 World Series, he forgot to mention the dynamic middle lineup hitting of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, for whom every ball they had to catch was an adventure. Or the 2007 team that scored a record number of runs over the season on their way to their second championship.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

And when all was said and done, Cahill just dropped the analogy, never quite explaining how it connected to his campaign or whether he was a pitcher, catcher or designated hitter.

“I don’t think that [metaphor] has been fully thought out yet,” said Nucci, a longtime Boston and Suffolk County pol and observer.