AP

JANUARY 13, 18:36 EST

Mass. Lieutenant Gov. Creates Furor
By LESLIE MILLER
Associated Press Writer


Lt. Gov. Jane Swift
AP/Steven Senne

BOSTON (AP) — Jane Swift gave birth to a baby girl three weeks before her election as Massachusetts' lieutenant governor in 1998, rankling conservatives who said a woman shouldn't combine career and family.

Now she's giving them plenty of reason to say, ``I told you so.''

After a weeklong furor, the state's most prominent working mom apologized Wednesday for using aides to baby sit and for taking a state police helicopter to get home because 14-month-old Elizabeth Ruth had pneumonia.

``Maybe I should have come to this conclusion earlier, but I am willing to accept responsibility for my actions and to say when I've been wrong,'' the 34-year-old Republican said at a news conference.

Her mea culpas were too little, too late and insincere for those who deluged a radio show Thursday morning. There were so many angry callers, the program was extended for an hour.

By Thursday afternoon, Democratic consultant Michael Goldman had printed up buttons: ``It takes an ENTIRE State Government to raise a child.''

Swift was a rising star before the scandal that earned her the nicknames ``Chopper Mom'' and ``The Leona Helmsley of Massachusetts politics.''

Her resume included legislative aide and sales manager for a department store when she was elected to the state Senate from a rural district in Massachusetts' northwestern corner in 1990.

After losing a race for Congress in 1996, she toiled in obscurity for the Massachusetts Port Authority until acting Gov. Paul Cellucci asked her to be his running mate.

Six months before the election, Swift announced that she and her husband, Charles Hunt, were expecting their first child.

``I'm convinced I can be a great statewide candidate and a good partner for the governor and be a mom all at the same time,'' she said at the time.

Others weren't so sure.

``You can have a career and children, but normally you cannot have them both at the same time without a trade-off,'' said Evelyn Reilly, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Massachusetts.

Swift immediately took a prominent role in the Cellucci administration, making frequent official appearances and speaking at all news conferences with the governor.

She made a splash at the traditional St. Patrick's Day breakfast in South Boston when she donned a beret and poked fun at her resemblance to Monica Lewinsky.

But her latest antics haven't left many laughing.

Columnists were quick to point out that Swift's husband is a stay-at-home dad. She supplements her $75,000 salary as lieutenant governor with a $25,000 one-night-a-week teaching job at Suffolk University.

Andrea Mullin, president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women, said Swift's predicament demonstrated how hard it is for working mothers to balance home and career. But she wouldn't defend the lieutenant governor.

``She has not done well,'' Mullin said. ``I think she's made an error.''

Cellucci has publicly supported her and defended her judgment. And Swift was also defiant. When it was pointed out that two aides who helped baby sit got promotions and pay raises, Swift said one thing had nothing to do with the other.

``I'm the lieutenant governor,'' she said at one point. ``And the lieutenant governor and the governor are allowed to use the state police helicopter.''

But then on Wednesday, she moved to contain the political damage. She agreed to ask the state Ethics Commission whether she should reimburse the state the $1,000 cost of her helicopter ride from Boston to her parents' home in North Adams in the western part of the state two days before Thanksgiving. The news conference prompted the Boston Herald headline ``Jane Erred.''

The damage may already be done.

Brian McGrory wrote in The Boston Globe: ``Inside the Statehouse, she's regarded as comically arrogant, a girl trying to do a woman's job.''

Copyright 2000 Associated Press.