Independent Tim Cahill shakes up Massachusetts governor race

Tim Cahill never expected his name to come up in a White House meeting.

The Massachusetts state treasurer had spent a lot of time warning about the dire condition of the Bay State’s finances. Of particular concern was Commonwealth Care, Massachusetts’ state-run health care system. Cahill claimed Commonwealth Care blew a massive hole in his state’s budget, and would have bankrupted the state if it weren’t for federal bailout funds.

That didn’t sit well with the White House, which was then pushing for a national health care reform bill based on the Massachusetts experiment.

“According to my source who was in the meeting with [David] Axelrod and [Rahm] Emanuel, I don’t know exactly how they described me, but basically my comments were giving Republicans their talking points,” Cahill told The Daily Caller.

“The message got back to me: You’d better shut up. This is your president. This is your Party. And you’re going to ruin things as we work towards taking the Massachusetts model and making it work for the rest of the country,” he said.

Cahill didn’t shut up. He took his criticisms of health care reform to a national audience, appearing on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show and publishing a couple op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. He also left the Democratic Party, registered as an independent, and is now running for governor of Massachusetts.

“I realized between taxes and this move towards national health care, if this is where my Party is going, I couldn’t remain in it in good conscience,” he said.

Four years after it was enacted, many would argue that Cahill was right about Commonwealth Care. Costs have exploded, with the entire package costing $4 billion — 450% of what was initially projected — so far. Health insurance premiums in Massachusetts are the highest in the country and have only gone up since reform was passed. Seven hospitals are suing the state for being underpaid for treating Commonwealth Care patients.

But Cahill’s criticisms have put the former state treasurer in a somewhat unique position. He’s running against liberal Democratic Governor Deval Patrick and establishment Republican Charlie Baker as arguably the most conservative candidate in the race and one who played a role in the most significant political battle of the past two years.

Tim Cahill may just be the most important candidate you’ve never heard of.

The Republican Governor’s Association certainly thinks so. They’ve poured close to $2 million into advertising in Massachusetts, primarily to attack Cahill.*

They’re worried for a reason. Patrick is the most unpopular governor in the country, with an approval rating of 22%. But with two other candidates vying for his job, he may still hold onto power. A recent Rasmussen poll found Patrick leading both Baker and Cahill with 39% support. Baker netted 34% and Cahill came in third with only 18%.

NEXT: Cahill courting disaffected Democrats