By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- A Massachusetts super PAC funded largely by the Republican Governors Association plans to target front-running Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley in a new ad slated to begin airing statewide Thursday attacking the attorney general's position on the gas tax.
The 30-second spot revisits Coakley's appearance in May on WCVB's Sunday political show "On the Record" when Coakley incorrectly guessed that the state's gas tax was 10 cents per gallon. The state gas tax is actually 24 cents per gallon after lawmakers in 2013 voted for a 3-cent increase to help fund transportation and infrastructure investments.
"Coakley doesn't even know how much we pay in gas taxes but she does support raising them and Coakley wants the gas tax to increase automatically so politicians can't be held accountable. Martha Coakley: Out of touch," the female narrator says.
Voters will decide the three-way Democratic primary for governor on Sept. 9 between Coakley, Treasurer Steven Grossman and health care administrator Dr. Donald Berwick. The winner is expected to face off in the general election against Republican Charlie Baker, who leads his GOP rival Mark Fisher by large margins in the polls, and two independents - Jeff McCormick and Evan Falchuk.
With the RGA-backed super PAC singling out Coakley in its new television advertisement, the Coakley campaign punched back with a web video criticizing "Big Dig Baker" for the role the former state finance secretary played in the financing of the Big Dig tunnel project. The familiar theme was central to the Democratic effort to defeat Baker in 2010 when he challenged Gov. Deval Patrick.
The anti-Coakley ad is funded by Commonwealth Future PAC, a super PAC chaired by former Mitt Romney Cabinet official and Scott Brown campaign manager Beth Lindstrom. Commonwealth Future PAC has reported $1.37 million in contributions, including $1.35 million from the Republican Governors Association.
Other contributors include Christopher and Lisa Collins, Kelly O'Neill and Beth Myers, former Romney chief of staff at the State House. The gas tax ad is the third released by the PAC as part of a $1.25 million ad buy reported in early August.
Coakley opposes a ballot question that would repeal a law linking future gas tax increases to inflation.
Responding to the ad, Coakley campaign manager Tim Foley said, "What the special interest-funded Super PAC who funded this ad fails to tell the public is that the gas tax plan is supported by chambers of commerce, taxpayer groups and economists because it will fund much-needed infrastructure projects and spur economic growth across the state. What they also fail to tell the public is that we need this revenue because of Charlie Bakers failed Big Dig finance plan, which bankrupted the state and crippled our investments in our roads, bridges and public transit."