BOSTON — State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien scored a strong victory Tuesday in Massachusetts' Democratic gubernatorial primary, setting up a November battle with GOP candidate Mitt Romney in a state that hasn't had a Democratic governor since Michael Dukakis left office in 1991.
O'Brien, the Democratic front-runner for months, held off former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, state Senate President Tom Birmingham and former state Sen. Warren Tolman to win the nomination.
With 87% of precincts reporting Tuesday night, O'Brien had 33% of the vote. Reich was next with 25%. Birmingham had just under 25% and Tolman had about 17%.
O'Brien was boosted throughout her campaign by key endorsements and money from women's groups. Romney, the former Salt Lake City Olympics chief and son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, faced no primary opponent.
In Oklahoma, meanwhile, state Sen. Brad Henry scored a surprising runoff victory over restaurateur Vince Orza in the Democratic gubernatorial race.
Orza had finished first by 16 percentage points in the Aug. 27 primary and had been favored in the runoff. But with all precincts reporting, Henry had 52% of the ballots, to Orza's 48%.
"The pundits said we couldn't do it. But I'm here to say we won," said Henry, 38.
Henry advances to the November election against GOP former Rep. Steve Largent. GOP Gov. Frank Keating is barred by state law from seeking a third term.
Also in Oklahoma, former Gov. David Walters defeated lawyer Tim Boettcher for the Democratic Senate nomination. He will face GOP Sen. James M. Inhofe in November. With all precincts reporting, Walters had 57%, to 43% for Boettcher.
In Massachusetts, O'Brien is seeking to end a recent trend of GOP domination: The last Democrat to serve as governor was Dukakis, who did not seek re-election in 1990 after his failed presidential bid.
O'Brien is also trying to become the first woman elected Massachusetts governor, succeeding GOP acting Gov. Jane Swift, the lieutenant governor who moved up when Paul Cellucci was named ambassador to Canada. Swift, who was plagued by personal and political controversies, dropped out of the race hours before Romney announced his candidacy.
Reich mounted a strong campaign, but his late entry in January hurt his fund-raising. Birmingham relied on labor support but was linked to an unpopular Legislature.
Even before the primary, O'Brien and Romney were swapping charges.
O'Brien, who is married to a former Enron lobbyist, complained that Romney's supporters went too far by showing her photo next to disgraced Enron and WorldCom executives. She called Romney a bully--a sensitive issue, since some accused him of "elbowing" Swift aside. The Romney campaign responded by calling O'Brien a bully for challenging Romney's state residency and trying to keep him off the ballot.