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Tom Reilly: Minority candidate?

Donít be fooled by his boring-white-guy looks, or his stoic attorney-general demeanor. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly wants you to know that he is a man of the people ó one who understands immigrant and minority concerns.

But how does one get this message across? Why, go to a Dominican restaurant in Roxbury, surround yourself with minority leaders and talk about family and education concerns, of course.

On Monday night, Reilly traveled to the popular Dominican restaurant Merengue and tried to make his case. With upbeat Latino music pulsing in the background, Reilly stood with black, Hispanic, and Indian supporters (such as former Suffolk County district attorney Ralph Martin, Cambridge College president Mahesh Sharma, and lawyer Nani Torres) who went to a microphone in the center of the room and lauded the attorney generalís work on issues like immigrant education, the church-sex scandal, and the rehabilitation of Harvard Pilgrimís health-care system. After 25 minutes of accolades, Reilly, the youngest son of Irish immigrants, took the mike and spoke of his modest upbringing in Springfield and his struggles early in life (his father and two oldest brothers had died by the time he was 16 years old).

"Youíre going to be at the table," he told the crowd, promising that vacancies in his administration would be filled by qualified people of all colors, genders, and sexual orientation. (Reilly will need a whole other meeting to patch up his tenuous relationship with the stateís gay and lesbian community, given how uncooperative heís been on the issue of same-sex marriage.) "Up and down, weíre going to have diversity."

But first, he needs money. Reilly isnít worried that heíll have to work extra-hard to court diverse backers, considering that his opponent for the 2006 Democratic nomination, Deval Patrick, is African-American.

"People measure you by who you are, what youíve done," he said, scoffing at the idea that he might suffer politically as the non-minority candidate, "and you can see that in this room tonight."

Then he couldnít resist a final jab: "I am a minority in this campaign. Iím the only one whoís not a millionaire."

Issue Date: December 16 - 22, 2005
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