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Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 1978

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Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 1978

The 1978 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was held on November 7, 1978. Former Massachusetts Port Authority executive director Edward J. King was elected to a four-year term, from January 4, 1979 until January 6, 1983.[1] King won the Democratic nomination by defeating incumbent Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis in the Democratic primary.[2]

Gubernatorial primaries


A number of Democrats considered challenging incumbent Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis for the party's nomination, including State Senator Alan Sisitsky, State Senate President Kevin B. Harrington, State Representative Charles Flaherty, former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives David M. Bartley, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Paul Guzzi, former Massachusetts Attorney General Robert H. Quinn, University of Massachusetts President Robert Wood, former Mayor of Cambridge Barbara Ackermann, and former executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority Edward J. King.[3][4][5][6][7] King also considered running as an Independent or a Republican.[8]

On October 25, 1977, King announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Governor. King attacked Dukakis for not keeping his promises, specifically his pledge not to raise taxes. A fiscal and social conservative, King was pro-life and supported capital punishment, offshore drilling, increased nuclear power, greater research on solar energy, less business regulation, raising the drinking age to 21, and mandatory sentences for drug dealers.[9][10]

On March 30, 1978, Ackerman announced her candidacy for Governor. She positioned herself as the party's liberal alternative to Dukakis. She criticized the governor for failing to deliver adequate human services, not cutting the cost of government, and not attracting new jobs.[11]

During the primary race, King was critical of Dukakis, Ackerman attacked Dukakis' record and King's positions on the issues, and Dukakis focused on his accomplishments and ignored his two opponents. Due to his incumbency, Dukakis held the early lead in the race. King was able to raise more money than his opponents due to his support from the business community. King focused his spending on extensive media advertising while Dukakis spent more money on organization than advertising. Ackerman struggled to raise money throughout the campaign and could not afford to advertise on television or in a daily newspaper.[12]

King upset Dukakis 51% to 42% with Ackerman receiving the remaining 7%.

1978 Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial primary [13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Edward J. King 442,174 51.07%
Democratic Michael S. Dukakis 365,417 42.20%
Democratic Barbara Ackermann 58,220 6.72%
Write-in All others 48 0.01%


After leaving office in 1975, Lieutenant Governor Donald R. Dwight began laying the groundwork for a potential gubernatorial run.[14] However, he instead moved to Minneapolis to become associate publisher of the Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Tribune.[15]

In November 1976, Massachusetts Republican State Committee chair Gordon M. Nelson announced that his "dream ticket" for Governor and Lieutenant Governor would be United States Secretary of Commerce Elliot Richardson and West Roxbury businessman and chairman of Citizens for Limited Taxation Edward F. King.[16] Following Gerald Ford's defeat in the 1976 presidential election, Richardson considered running for governor in 1978 or president in 1980.[17] Richardson officially announced that he would not run for governor on October 4, 1977.[18]

On October 27, 1977, Massachusetts House minority leader Francis W. Hatch, Jr. became the first Republican candidate for Governor. He was joined at his first campaign press conference by former ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., former state senator Philip A. Graham, and former state party chairman William A. Barnstead.[19] He believed that the real issues of the campaign were property tax relief, creating jobs and improving the state's economy, welfare reform, revamping auto insurance, and making government more open.[10]

In November 1977, party chairman Gordon Nelson leaked a poll of Republican campaign contributors that showed Richardson was the top choice for governor with 47% followed by Edward F. King with 27%, Hatch with 18%, former governor Francis W. Sargent with 7%, and Middlesex County Sheriff John J. Buckley with 2%.[20]

On January 4, 1978, Edward F. King announced his candidacy for Governor.[21] A businessman who founded and ran a data consulting company and a real estate company, King ran as a political outsider. He was best known for leading the successful camapign to defeat the graduated income tax proposals in 1972 and 1976. A conservative, he listed Ronald Reagan and Meldrim Thomson, Jr. as among his heroes.[22] King pledged to cut the state budget by $600 million dollars and eliminate some agencies and programs.[21] He took stances against busing, abortion, gay rights, and gun control.[10] King focused his early campaign on winning the Republican state convention, which he believed would catapult him through the primary and victory over Dukakis in the general election.[22] He pledged to drop out of the race if he did not win the convention vote.[23]

Because Edward F. King had the same name as Democratic candidate Edward J. King, the two candidates were often confused with each other. As the younger and less known candidate, Edward F. King believed that the name confusion worked to his advantage as it gave his name double exposure. Conversely, as the better known candidate, Edward J. King became wary of the confusion. In addition to having the same name, the two Kings also had similar political positions (they both ran as pro-business, anti-tax conservatives) and both attended Boston College (Edward J. King graduated, but Edward F. King left to go into business). Physically, the two were not alike as the Democratic King was large (six-feet tall) and quiet while the Republican was five foot-six and described as "fiery".[22]

On February 6, 1978, John J. Buckley entered the GOP race. Buckley believed that as a fiscal conservative who was liberal on social issues, he was the best Republican candidate to beat Dukakis. He also cited the fact that he had been elected in a heavily-Democratic county while King had never run for public office before and Hatch had lost his previous bids for higher office as another reason why he was the best candidate. Buckley reinterated his opposition to the death penalty and promised to veto any attempts to eliminate abortions. He also stated that he wanted to let private businesses perform many state functions, including the Medicaid program. He declined to promise that he would not raise taxes.[24]

The Republican Convention was held on May 6, 1978 at the Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts. On the first ballot, King received a plurality of the votes with 898 to Hatch's 874 and Buckley's 212. Before the second ballot, Buckley announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy and attempted to move his delegates to Hatch. However, King won the nomination. After the defeat, Hatch announced that he would challenge King in the primary.[25] Although Buckley withdrew at the convention he still considered running in the primary. However, on May 17 he officially exited the governor's race.[26] He later entered the race for the United States House of Representatives seat in Massachusetts's 5th congressional district, which was being vacated by Paul Tsongas.

During the primary campaign, King attacked Hatch for being a "professional politician" and an "insurgent" candidate. He stated as House Minority Leader, Hatch shared a responsibility for higher taxes and spending. King also touted his role as a leader in the taxpayer revolt. Hatch on the other hand ignored King and focused his attack on the Democratic frontrunner and incumbent Governor Michael Dukakis.[10]

Hatch defeated King 56% to 44%.


1978 Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial primary [27]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Francis W. Hatch, Jr. 141,070 55.96%
Republican Edward F. King 110,932 44.01%
Write-in All others 86 0.03%

Lieutenant gubernatorial primaries


On April 28, 1978, Edward F. King chose State Representative Peter McDowell to be his running mate.[28] McDowell was chosen by King largely because McDowell opposed a clause in an ethics bill supported by King's primary opponent, Francis W. Hatch, Jr., that would require politicians to disclose all clients they had done more than $1000 worth of business with. He felt the provision was unfair because businesses would not want to disclose this information for competitive reasons. He also felt it was unfair to the clients to have their names disclosed because they had nothing to do with political activities.[29] Following King's victory at the Republican convention, McDowell was acclaimed as the party's nominee.[25]

After John J. Buckley dropped out at the convention to support Hatch, it was rumored that Hatch would select Buckley to be his running mate.[25] However, on May 25, 1978, Hatch announced that former Secretary of Administration and Finance William I. Cowin would be his running mate.[30]

Cowin defeated McDowell in the Republican primary to become his party's nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

1978 Massachusetts Republican lieutenant gubernatorial primary[31]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican William I. Cowin 128,914 59.90%
Republican Peter McDowell 86,250 40.08%
Write-in All others 41 0.02%


Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Thomas P. O'Neill III ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor after he decided not to challenge Edward Brooke in that year's senate election. Had O'Neill not run, Secretary of the Commonwealth Paul Guzzi, Secretary of Administration and Finance John J. Buckley, State Senators Alan Sisitsky and Jack Backman, State Representatives Philip W. Johnston, Lois Pines, and Ronald Pine, Middlesex County Commissioner Michael McLaughlin, and Boston City Councilor Rosemarie Sansone were reported to be interested in running.[32]

General election

Due to the presence of a conservative Democrat and a liberal Republican in the race, there were some members of each party endorsed the other's candidate. William A. Casey, the Republican nominee for Massachusetts State Auditor, dropped out of the race to endorse King.[33] Unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Edward F. King, California anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis, New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson, and Lloyd B. Waring, a prominent Republican fundraiser and former Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, also endorsed King.[34][35][36]

Conversely, unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Ackermann, state representatives Barney Frank, Mel King, Saundra Graham, Doris Bunte, Robert Fortes, and James Segel, Chelsea Mayor Joel Pressman, and the board of the directors of the Massachusetts chapter of Americans for Democratic Action endorsed Hatch.[37][38][39][40] Lieutenant Governor Thomas P. O'Neill III considered dropping out of the race instead of running on the same ticket as King. However he chose to stay in the race, but express his own ideology.[41]

The King-O'Neill ticket defeated the Hatch-Cowin ticket 53% to 47%.


1978 Massachusetts gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Edward J. King (Thomas P. O'Neill III) 1,030,294 52.51%
Republican Francis W. Hatch, Jr. (William I. Cowin) 926,072 47.19%
Write-in All others 5,885 0.30%
Majority 104,222 20.30%


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Michelson, A.A. (February 4, 1978). "When challengers leave the race". The Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ Turner, Robert L. (October 15, 1977). "Bartley says 2 key Democrats want him to run for governor". The Boston Globe. 
  5. ^ Surkin, Carol (January 12, 1978). "Guzzi may join race for governor". The Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ Kenney, Charles (December 15, 1976). "Ex-Massport chief King plans to run for governor". The Boston Globe. 
  7. ^ Turner, Robert L. (December 15, 1977). "Ackerman ponders Dukakis challenge". The Boston Globe. 
  8. ^ Turner, Robert L. (November 5, 1978). "King or Hatch?". The Boston Globe. 
  9. ^ Turner, Robert L. (October 26, 1977). "King opens campaign with blast at Dukakis". The Boston Globe. 
  10. ^ a b c d Nick King; Laurence Collins (September 17, 1978). "A final blitz for votes". The Boston Globe. 
  11. ^ Robinson, Walter V. (March 31, 1978). "Ackermann of Cambridge is running for governor". The Boston Globe. 
  12. ^ Nick King; Walter V. Robinson (August 13, 1978). "3 Democrats get ready for the final push". The Boston Globe. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Henry III, William (May 4, 1975). "Where are they now--Sargent, Dwight, Davoren and Quinn?". The Boston Globe. 
  15. ^ Patterson, Rachelle (September 7, 1975). "US position turned down by Dwight". The Boston Globe. 
  16. ^ Lockman, Norman (November 7, 1976). "State GOP's view from the bottom". The Boston Globe. 
  17. ^ Patterson, Rachelle (December 11, 1976). "Richardson weighs bid for Presidency". The Boston Globe. 
  18. ^ "State House? Richardson to say no". The Boston Globe. October 4, 1977. 
  19. ^ Turner, Robert J. (October 28, 1977). "Hatch announces for governor, says Dukakis failing to lead". The Boston Globe. 
  20. ^ Healy, Robert (November 4, 1977). "Hatch caught in old GOP squeeze". The Boston Globe. 
  21. ^ a b Turner, Robert (January 5, 1978). "GOP's Edward F. King will run for governor". The Boston Globe. 
  22. ^ a b c King, Nick (January 13, 1978). "Kings are pawns in a name game". The Boston Globe. 
  23. ^ Lockman, Norman (May 7, 1978). "Only 1st step, King cautions". The Boston Globe. 
  24. ^ Turner, Robert L. (February 7, 1978). "Sheriff Buckley joins GOP governor race". The Boston Globe. 
  25. ^ a b c Collins, Laurence (May 7, 1978). "Conservative defeats Hatch after Buckley withdraws". The Boston Globe. 
  26. ^ Collins, Laurence (May 18, 1978). "Buckley bows out of race for governor". The Boston Globe. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Dennis Republican King running mate". The Boston Globe. April 29, 1978. 
  29. ^ "The convention's slate". The Boston Globe. May 7, 1978. 
  30. ^ Turner, Robert (May 26, 1978). "Cowin teams up with Hatch". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  31. ^ Massachusetts Election Statistics 1978. p. 230. 
  32. ^ Lockman, Norman (May 12, 1978). "Dukakis aide '99%' sure Lt. Gov. O'Neill will run for Senate". The Boston Globe. 
  33. ^ Lockman, Norman (September 24, 1978). "GOP auditor candidate withdraws from ticket". The Boston Globe. 
  34. ^ Larkin, Al (November 2, 1978). "GOP's King backs Edward J.". The Boston Globe. 
  35. ^ Black, Chris (October 17, 1978). "King gets Jarvis' backing". The Boston Globe. 
  36. ^ "I'd vote for King, Thomson says". The Boston Globe. October 29, 1978. 
  37. ^ Larkin, Al (October 5, 1978). "Democrat Ackermann says she's for Hatch". The Boston Globe. 
  38. ^ Collins, Laurence (October 11, 1978). "6 Democrats go for Hatch". The Boston Globe. 
  39. ^ Collins, Laurence (October 18, 1978). "Chelsea's mayor goes for Hatch". The Boston Globe. 
  40. ^ Larkin, Al (October 6, 1978). "ADA board votes to back Hatch". The Boston Globe. 
  41. ^ King, Nick (September 22, 1978). "Lt. Gov. O'Neill will run with King". The Boston Globe. 
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