EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 17, 2011

Democrat kicks off Senate run by walking across state

By Brian Messenger

METHUEN — Scott Brown rode to an upset victory in the U.S. Senate last year with the help of his trusty GMC pick-up.

Thomas Conroy is a Democrat from Wayland with similar ambitions, only he's looking to upset Brown in 2012. That, and he's traded the four wheels of a truck for his own two feet.

Conroy is at the end of a 600-mile walk across Massachusetts to promote his Senate candidacy. His journey began July 2 and yesterday brought him to Methuen and Lawrence.

Today, Conroy, 49, a third-term state representative, will trek through Andover and Tewksbury. On Monday, he walked 14 miles in the rain across Haverhill, stopping along the way to meet with voters and business leaders and participate in community service projects.

"It's been an enriching experience," said Conroy yesterday at Mann Orchards. "I've been talking to a lot of people that are unemployed. Everybody's worried about the future."

Like the bulk of candidates who will appear on election ballots in November 2012, Conroy said the focus of his campaign is jobs and the economy.

He said the people he's met while walking are concerned about the stock market, federal spending, their retirement savings and the cost of health care and college tuition.

Conroy said he has also enjoyed the unique perspective of seeing the state's "crumbling" roads, bridges, dams and railroads up close.

If elected, Conroy said he'd advocate to create new priorities for federal spending — away from Iraq and Afghanistan, and more on America's long-neglected infrastructure.

This renewed emphasis on public works projects will help create jobs, he said.

"Washington doesn't have their priorities right," said Conroy. "Those need to be our sole focus, making our economy stronger again."

Conroy said recent Republican efforts to cut spending in hopes of creating jobs are not based in reality. "It's fiscal and economic fairy land," he said.

Conroy said he hopes to lead by example in Washington in an effort to "stop the bickering."

He is part of an already crowded Democratic field that includes Newton Mayor Seti Warren, nonprofit AmeriCorps organization City Year founder Alan Khazei, lawyers Marisa DeFranco and James Coyne King, businessman Bob Massie and engineer Herb Robinson.

Conroy said he has more experience than all of them. He also questioned Brown's voting record since the Wrentham Republican took office in February 2010.

Conroy said Brown has voted along the Republican party line 90 percent of the time.

"That's not reflective of what most people want," said Conroy. "I don't think he's gotten much accomplished. That's not what people want. He's not a leader."

Conroy's trip across the state concludes Sept. 3 on Boston Common.

Conroy is sure to mark each end point on his walks before heading home or driving to appearances, so he can return to the same spot and pick up where he left off.

"I'm walking point to point," said Conroy. "This whole thing is contiguous."

Conroy estimates he's already travelled over 500 miles — averaging six or seven miles per day — and has spoken to several thousand people in over 100 cities and towns.

"I want to carry their voices down to Washington," he said.

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