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    Local activity builds in governor’s race

    Peabody City Councilor Tom Gould supports state Treasurer Steve Grossman in the governor’s race, saying he “connects with people on a very local level.”

    Former Salem city councilor Matt Veno, on the other hand, favors Attorney General Martha Coakley, viewing her as a “strong, progressive leader.”

    Stephen Zykofsky, a Republican State Committee member from Lynn, meanwhile, believes Charlie Baker is the best choice for governor because “he’d be an able and honest executive for our state.”


    As this year’s race for governor kicks into a higher gear, politically active residents across the region are choosing sides and lending a hand to help their candidates succeed.

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    The activity is especially brisk among Democrats, as a closely contested primary race steams towards the party’s state convention, taking place Friday and Saturday in Worcester. The conclave will endorse a candidate and determine which of the contenders — Coakley, Grossman, Joseph C. Avellone, Donald M. Berwick, and Juliette Kayyem — make the September primary ballot.

    On the Republican side, Baker is competing with Mark Fisher, a Tea Party-affiliated candidate. There are also three unenrolled candidates: Evan Falchuk, who is running under the banner of the United Independent Party; Scott Lively, an Evangelical Christian pastor; and venture capital investor Jeff McCormick.

    For Democrats, an immediate priority is helping their favorite candidate garner support among convention delegates, many of whom remain uncommitted. Others have been busy rallying local support for the campaigns, including organizing events in their communities.

    Gould has helped organize a number of events for Grossman in Peabody, including an ice cream social two weeks ago at Treadwell’s, his shop on Margin Street. He plans to serve as a floor worker for Grossman at the convention.


    “He’s extremely involved in the community in Peabody,” he said of Grossman, who also has the backing of Mayor Ted Bettencourt. Gould cited in particular the state treasurer’s role as chairman of the state’s School Building Authority in helping Peabody obtain funds for a new middle school. “It’s all about relationships — I think he’s the best at it.”

    Beverly Democrat Charlie Grimes, a retired Essex assistant district attorney, and his wife Patricia Grimes, a former city councilor, are both strong supporters of Coakley. The couple hosted a well-attended house party for the attorney general in April and both were elected as Coakley-pledged delegates to the convention; their son, Alex, chosen as an alternate delegate by the city’s Democrats, is also a Coakley supporter.

    “I’ve known Martha for more than 20 years . . . and I have in all those years been impressed by her strength, her intelligence, her articulateness. She is one of the clearest thinkers and clearest speakers I have ever encountered in a lifetime involved in public life and public service,” Charlie Grimes said.

    Veno, who cohosted a fund-raiser for Coakley in Salem and helped organize a “meet and greet” with her at the Salem Inn last weekend, said, “She’s got a demonstrated track record of fighting for causes I believe in,” including containing health care costs and supporting marriage equality.

    Swampscott resident Mike Benton is an elected delegate for Berwick, a former director of the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Benton helped organize a house party for the candidate in Swampscott.


    “He’s very compassionate and he thinks we are all in this together,” Benton said. “I feel the same way . . . The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. It’s too easy for people who are doing well to get the benefit of legislation and policies.” Benton said Berwick also brings valuable executive experience.

    Renee Keaney of Marblehead is also headed to the Democratic Party’s convention as a Berwick delegate.

    In addition to his executive experience, she said, Berwick has impressed her as someone “who was able to listen well and connected well, who is able to build good relationships. He just comes across as someone who is very authentic and committed to progressive values.”

    Former Amesbury mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III is an elected delegate supporting Kayyem, a former state and federal homeland security official and former Boston Globe columnist.

    “I’ve known her for a couple of years and we have worked together on public safety issues in my role as mayor as well as a member of the National Guard,” said Kezer, who attended a house party for Kayyem in Amesbury. “I am impressed by her intelligence and her energy, and, working with her in the public safety arena, with her depth of knowledge on the issues faced at the local, state, and national levels.”

    David Harrison of Gloucester, a former chairman of the Democratic State Committee, was elected as a delegate supporting Avellone, a biotechnology executive and former Wellesley selectman.

    “He’s bright, he’s got a great record in medicine and business . . . He’s just a guy who can turn the people on,” said Harrison, who attended a lunch for Avellone in Gloucester several months ago. He said Avellone also brings a needed “fresh face” to the party.

    Zykofsky said that Baker, a Swampscott resident and the strong favorite in the Republican primary race, enjoys “overwhelming support” from party activists in the area.

    “Charlie proved himself a very able administrator under governors Weld and Cellucci. He’s a very bright guy . . . I think he’s proven through his deeds and words that he’s up to the job,” said Zykofsky, who is also chairman of the Lynn Republican City Committee.

    Jay McMahon, an unenrolled Peabody resident, is actively backing Falchuk, calling the former global health company executive “a breath of fresh air.”

    “He’s a very dynamic young man,” said McMahon, who helped organize an event for Falchuk at the Stonewood Tavern in Peabody. “He doesn’t sound like a politician . . . He really talks about the issues that are brought up and he is very well versed in a lot of different areas.”

    Jose Javier of Lawrence, who is unenrolled, is another Falchuk backer. The two met about two years ago when both were volunteering for a Lawrence nonprofit.

    “I like the fact that he’s an honest, passionate, dedicated person with convictions,” Javier said of Falchuk.

    Chris Driscoll of Lowell, who is unenrolled, said he favors McCormick, a founder of Saturn Partners in Boston.

    “He just seems like a guy who wants to do whatever the right thing is,” Driscoll said, observing that as an independent, “he’s not being pulled in two different directions.”

    Driscoll said McCormick “also has a track record of creating jobs. And he comes from a background where nothing was given to him. He went out and did it.”

    John Laidler can be reached at