Still riding the crest of the Republican landslide last fall, GOP activists in Massachusetts are eyeing the state's 1982 governor's race with increased enthusiasm.
Encouraged by the prospect of a bitter squabble among Democrats for that party's gubernatorial nomination, at least six Republicans have set their sights on the Massachusetts executive chair.
Pledging an administration dedicated to ending corruption, waste, and mismanagement in government, Boston City Councilor John W. Sears became Oct. 1 the first from the GOP to formally declare his candidacy. So far, attorney Guy Carbone, who announced his candidacy Oct. 14, is the only other officially declared Republican hopeful.
Within the next month other Republicans are expected to follow suit, including state House minority whip Andrew H. Card, state House minority leader William G. Robinson, former state Republican chairman Josiah A. Spaulding, and John R. Lakian, an investment counselor.
Helping to launch the Sears campaign was Henry Cabot Lodge, a former ambassador to the United Nations and an elder statesman within Bay State Republican ranks.
Mr. Sears, a Harvard College graduate and onetime Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, was the first Republican to win a seat in Boston city government in three decades. The moderate Republican has served in several capacities, including Suffolk County sheriff, and unlike some of his almost certain challengers for the GOP nomination, he has the advantage of already being well-known within party ranks. He once served as Massachusetts Republican Party chairman.
One of the biggest challenges to his nomination, however, could be party conservatives, who were Reagan supporters from the start in the 1980 presidential campaign while Sears was pushing the candidacy of now Vice-President George Bush.
In his announcement for governor, Sears made it clear he endorses the "Reagan concept of shifting [federal aid programs] to block grants because it holds state and local officials accountable." Noting what he terms "wasteful spending by Democrats like Boston Mayor Kevin H. White," he added that he "would rather see some of the block grant money go directly to neighborhood leadership."
The first major test of the various GOP gubernatorial hopefuls will come during December and January when the delegates to the party's March 6 nonbinding endorsement convention will be chosen at ward and town caucuses across the state.
While the field of contenders for governor is expected to shrink after the convention, at least two, and possibly more, Republican aspirants for the top office are all but sure to square off in next September's state primary.
Although closing party ranks behind any gubernatorial nominee could be difficult, GOP leaders conceed, they are guardedly optimistic that party harmony will be achieved.
Massachusetts Republicans, whose party enrollment is but 453,838, are outnumbered 3 to 1 by the Democratic opposition. The balance of political power , however, is held by so-called "independent" voters enrolled in neither party. These number 1,140,916 among the commonwealth's nearly 3 million voters.
Expected to compete for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Gov. Edward J. King, and Lt. Gov. Thomas P. O'Neill III. Only the latter has formally announced, but all three have been raising funds for months, as have most of the Republican aspirants.