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Most area mayors side with Obama

President Obama is earning broad support from mayors of cities north of Boston as the 2012 race for the White House moves into its final weeks.

An informal Globe survey of the region’s 18 mayors found that 15 are supporting Obama, with none backing his Republican rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Two mayors are taking no position and the views of one could not be learned.

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In interviews, many of the mayors in Obama’s corner cited his efforts to restore the economy.

“Four years ago at this time, the country was on the verge of total financial collapse,” said Amesbury Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III, a Democrat. “We are much better off the way we are now as we climb out of the economic downturn.”

“Given what he inherited, I think he’s done a pretty good job trying to turn it around,” said Beverly Mayor William F. Scanlon Jr., who is unenrolled.

State Representative Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican who supports Romney, said he is not surprised so many of the area’s mayors are backing Obama.

“I think it’s them really playing the political game,” he said. “Most mayors from cities tend to be or lean Democratic.”

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Hill and other Republican officials from communities north of Boston said they thought Romney would be better at improving the economy so that it generates more jobs.

But  Obama earned plaudits from mayors for the support he has provided communities, including through the 2010 federal economic stimulus law.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, a Democrat, said the stimulus “added money for infrastructure — we got a fair amount in Haverhill, which put people to work.” He said he was also pleased with the Affordable Care Act, which he noted “provided health care to 23 million Americans who otherwise don’t have it.”

Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan, also a Democrat, pointed to federal funds Melrose has received to maintain the jobs of special education teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

“I think the federal government has been an outstanding partner with local government under President Obama,” Dolan said. 

Dolan and Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville put their support for Obama into action by serving as surrogate speakers for the president in a series of events in Pennsylvania last month.  

“The president has stood for the values most Americans stand for and he believes in investing in this country in the long-term, because he believes in the perseverance, and character and tenacity of the American people,” Curtatone said.

Other mayors backing Obama are Democrats Ted Bettencourt of Peabody, Gary Christenson of Malden, Kimberley L. Driscoll of Salem, Carlo DeMaria Jr. of Everett, Scott D. Galvin of Woburn, Donna D. Holaday of Newburyport, Michael J. McGlynn of Medford, Daniel J. Rizzo of Revere, and Stephen N. Zanni of Methuen; and Patrick J. Murphy, of Lowell, who is unenrolled.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a Republican, does not make endorsements, according to her office. Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua could not be reached.

On the Republican side, Hill said he is backing Romney because he is “looking at this race from an economic point of view and of someone I believe can put people back to work.” He cited Romney’s record as governor, saying that under Romney’s leadership, Massachusetts emerged from a recession “as one of the strongest states in the nation.”

Haverhill City Councilor and former mayor William H. Ryan, a member of the Republican State Committee, believes Romney’s business background makes him the right choice for the country now.

“The country is in a real mess financially. We need somebody who has a proven track record of taking on serious problems, like Mitt Romney did with Bain,” he said. “Companies were falling apart and he figured out how to make them productive again. . . He was able to turn them around and we need to turn this country around.”

State Representative Marc Lombardo, a Billerica Republican, also cites Romney’s private sector background.

“This country needs a different direction,” he said. “The last four years have been an absolute disaster both economically and in our foreign policy, and I think Governor Romney brings 25 years of business experience. He knows how to make businesses successful and that means jobs, which is the most critical thing the country needs now.”

Lombardo added of Romney, “He will restore America’s standing in the globe as a proud and strong country that stands for good, and will protect our diplomats in foreign lands.”

But in siding with Obama, some mayors hit Romney for his performance as governor and on the campaign trail.

“I was mayor in all four years he was governor, during some of the worst times in Melrose’s and the state’s history, and there was no engagement with local government,” Dolan said. “It was almost like he wanted to be governor in order to be president. I have a real problem with that.”

McGlynn recalled that he was president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association when Romney took office as governor, “and all we faced when he was there were reductions in local aid, the opposite [of the approach] the president took during this recession.”

But Hill said that while Romney had to make cuts to local aid at the start of his tenure due to the difficult economic time, he later made restoring some of those cuts a priority and did so in his last budget.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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