By Andy Metzger

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WORCESTER -- Three of the four Democratic candidates for the office next-in-line to the governor emerged from the Worcester Democratic Party convention Saturday with the opportunity to compete for the party's nomination in September.

A longtime Democratic aide who is running for lieutenant governor, Steve Kerrigan narrowly won the most support from party insiders gathered in the state's second largest city.

Party delegates also gave enough support to Mike Lake, a 2010 candidate for auditor, and advanced Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung, while former U.S. Department of Agriculture official James Arena DeRosa was bounced from contention in the primary.

The lieutenant governor nominee decided by Sept. 9 primary voters will be matched up with the gubernatorial nominee and will likely face the Republican frontrunners Charlie Baker and his running mate Karyn Polito in November.

"It's time for us to lead again," Kerrigan said, Saturday, promising to restore faith in government and casting himself as a problem solver who could "get it done" during 14 years as an aide to the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy. He said he would take on Polito, a former state representative, in the general. "We had our last Tea Party in Massachusetts 250 years ago, and this November let's make sure it stays that way," Kerrigan said.


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Lake, Cheung and Arena-DeRosa signaled support for a "single-payer" Medicare for all form of health care, a favorite of liberals, which drew cheers at the DCU Center confab.

With 1,625 votes, Kerrigan took in 37.6 percent of the vote, while Lake won 35.4 percent, Cheung took 16.2 percent and Arena-DeRosa fell short of the 15-percent cutoff with 10.6 percent of the vote. Kerrigan and Lake agreed not to compete for the party's endorsement after the results were announced around 7 p.m. and the delegates in the hall had dwindled.

Lake's campaign manager Joe Caiazzo told the News Service the close second was an upset because Lake was "outspent four to one."

"He also went through this four years ago," Kerrigan told reporters after the convention, referring to Lake's 2010 auditor bid. He said, "This is my first time running statewide."

Kerrigan said his strategy with Cheung and Lake will be to "compare (their) experience with my experience."

A former Lancaster selectman, Kerrigan ran the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is the only candidate outside Route 495, and said he has the support of 11 mayors. Cheung noted he is the lone elected local official seeking the office.

Lake, a Boston resident who heads up Leading Cities and won a rare endorsement from former Gov. Michael Dukakis, said if he wins the office he would focus on building relationships outside the state, and try to influence the governor in the Corner Office.

"In my vision the lieutenant governor's role is really that of an advocate. It's to work with the governor, to work with that partnership from the very beginning, to be able to have the governor's ear, influence the governor. And we might not always agree, but to have the relationship in place so that we can have the discussion," Lake told the News Service.

Lake claimed he turned in the second most certified signatures of any campaign for any office this year with signers from more than 300 municipalities and said, "I'm the only candidate in the lieutenant governor's race that has a statewide organization."

Cheung, who name-checked Bill Gates and Google in his convention speech and told the News Service he would try to focus on job creation, previously ran as a Republican for state office in Virginia, which he chalked up to his father's politics after immigrating from China.

"It wasn't until it was too late that I realized that I didn't agree with their values or positions," Cheung told the News Service. He said, "It's what's led me to be so active in the Democratic party here."

The former USDA administrator for the Northeast and a Holliston resident, Arena-DeRosa touted his experience managing a $12 billion agency, said the state could improve its management of social services, and said that when he found state cost overruns in social services he worked with state officials rather than taking a "punitive" approach.

"What you're really telling everybody is you're prepared to be governor of Massachusetts," Arena-DeRosa told the News Service. He said he would try to focus on agriculture and nutrition, believing regulations often hurt small farmers and nutrition could be key to better health and education.

Arena-DeRosa, who married into the Arena farm family, also criticized the state's success, or lack thereof, in providing breakfast to school children.

In addition to serving as an advisor to the governor and taking the role of acting governor when the governor is out of state, the lieutenant governor chairs the Governor's Council, an 8-member elected body whose chief responsibility is providing advice and consent for judicial nominations made by the governor.

"Many talk about Mike's youthful outlooking temperament. I can tell you as someone on the Governor's Council this is something we need on Beacon Hill, and Mike can bring it," Governor's Councilor Eileen Duff yelled from the podium, introducing Lake.

Cheung, who told the News Service the Governor's Council has "the same kind of interpersonal dynamics and range of opinion" as the Cambridge City Council, touted his experience working in the tech sector and cast himself as a liberal among liberals Saturday saying, "Over the last five years I've earned a reputation as one of the most progressive and productive members of the Cambridge City Council."

When there are contested races for governor and lieutenant governor the people running for the number-two position do not yet know who will lead the ticket. The gubernatorial nominee holds the power in that relationship and the dynamic can vary from confrontational to team players.

The possible running mates for the lieutenant governor are Steven Grossman, Martha Coakley and Don Berwick, after Juliette Kayyem and Joe Avellone failed to reach the 15 percent threshold Saturday.

Tim Murray, who won a three-way primary in 2006 and went on to win the general election with Deval Patrick before resigning in 2013, told the News Service that even though lieutenant governors do not control the agenda, primary voters want to hear their opinions on issues.

Murray, who resigned in 2013 to run the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, said once he and Patrick linked up, he became "more aligned" with the ticket.

"It's a role of the dice," Murray told the News Service. "I was lucky that the governor and I enjoyed a very good personal relationship. He gave me the ability to take the lead on a number of issues, and I had a meaningful role and I could weigh in on things, and I think that's all you can ask for as a number two."

The former mayor of Worcester, Murray served as a liaison to cities and towns and took on housing, transportation infrastructure and veterans issues for his portfolio. Asked about the lieutenant governor candidate's general election role, Murray said, "It depends on strengths. Obviously I mixed it up a little bit sometimes on behalf of the ticket."

"The voters decide who you're running with. And in 2006 there was a pile of good candidates then, too. And as good as they all were, you realize how lucky we were to end up with Tim Murray," said John Walsh, who was Patrick's 2006 campaign manager. Walsh told the News Service, "We had one meetup, and it was seamless - boom. Obviously for us, one thing with Tim Murray was - it's all geography; his base in central Mass. was so impressive, his relationships in cities across the commonwealth was big."

While the constitutional authority vested in the lieutenant governor's office is limited, over the past three decades two lieutenant governors - Jane Swift and Argeo Paul Cellucci - have been elevated to the state's chief executive after the governor resigned, and a third - Evelyn Murphy - would have if Dukakis won the presidency in 1988.