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Martha Coakley criticizes Steve Grossman over super PAC

Attorney General Martha Coakley is denouncing a new super PAC launched by supporters of state Treasurer Steve Grossman, her rival for the Democratic nomination for governor.

In an e-mail sent Thursday, Coakley’s campaign urged her backers to “join us in telling Steve Grossman and his supporters that SuperPACs should stay out of the governor’s race and to let the voters, not special interest groups, have the final say.”

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The super PAC, Massachusetts Forward Together, officially registered with state campaign finance officials Wednesday. Its creation was first reported by the Boston Herald.

The PAC’s chairman is Barry B. White, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser and former US ambassador to Norway. Its cochairwomen are his wife, Eleanor G. White, and Collette Phillips, a well-known public relations executive.

Eleanor White said in an interview that the super PAC plans to run ads on behalf of Grossman, a friend and neighbor in Newton whom she and her husband have known for 30 years. “We just want to make it so Steve can be as competitive as possible,” she said.

Candidates and super PACs are legally barred from coordinating their activities, and Eleanor White said she had not spoken to Grossman about the creation of Massachusetts Forward Together. But she said, “I assume he knows about it, and I hope he’s happy about it.”

Coakley’s campaign seized on the prospect of a flood of outside cash on Grossman’s behalf, however, to highlight her opposition to Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the door to unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.

“I know you understand that grass-roots campaigning isn’t just the best way to win; it’s the only way to win,” said the Coakley campaign e-mail, which was signed by field director Kristina Bigdeli. “Unfortunately, the formation of a SuperPAC by Steve Grossman’s supporters, and the potential for unlimited special-interest money to be funneled into this race, is a giant step backward.”

Later Thursday, Grossman released a letter to Coakley noting he had proposed a pact aimed at keeping third-party groups from getting involved in the race.

“The facts are clear,” he wrote. “We proposed a People’s Pledge. You rejected our proposal to keep unlimited, outside interest group money from influencing the 2014 Massachusetts governor’s race.”

Fisher suit against GOP set for June trial

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has set a trial date in a lawsuit filed by Mark R. Fisher, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful who contends he was unfairly kept off the GOP primary ballot at last month’s state Republican convention.

Judge Douglas H. Wilkins said in his order that Fisher’s civil action against the state Republican Party would go to trial in mid-June.

In a victory for Fisher, a Shrewsbury businessman aligned with the Tea Party wing of the party, Wilkins also denied the state GOP’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. He did, however, narrow its focus.

The state party said Fisher fell just short of garnering the 15 percent of delegate votes at the March convention necessary to qualify for the Sept. 9 GOP primary ballot. That left Charlie Baker as the sole nominee for governor. Baker, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee, has strong support from the state’s Republican establishment.

In the lawsuit, Fisher says that the party failed to follow its own rules in counting votes, in particular with regard to what the party called “blank votes.”

The party’s chairwoman, Kirsten Hughes, responded to the judge’s order in a statement.

“We are confident this process will result in a fair outcome that respects the rules of the convention that Mr. Fisher agreed to and will continue to focus on the most important issue at hand, electing Republicans at every level of government to bring balance and a new direction to Massachusetts,” she said.

Tim Buckley, a spokesman for Baker, said in a statement that Baker “hopes this gets resolved fairly, and, if that means a primary, then he welcomes it.”

While winning at least 15 percent of the vote at state party convention is necessary for Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates to be placed on the primary ballot, it is not the only condition. Among the other requirements, party candidates must collect 10,000 signatures from registered Massachusetts voters, have them certified with local election officials, and submit them to the secretary of state by June 3.

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