By Morgan True/BU Washington News Service
TAMPA—Ron Kaufman, a top campaign adviser to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, put in a call to Worcester Country Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis in July — asking Mr. Evangelidis to come to this year’s Republican National Convention as a delegate, and share his firsthand experience working alongside Mr. Romney in the Statehouse.
Mr. Evangelidis — who was sworn in the same day as then-Gov. Romney in 2003 as one of a small group of Republican state legislators – readily assented to Mr. Kaufman’s request.
“I’ve been in politics a long time. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and Mitt will outwork anybody,” Mr. Evangelidis said in an interview, characterizing Mr. Romney as a hands-on manager and a man of great integrity.
Its important to get that message out, Mr. Evangelidis said, because, although he believes the American people are ready for something different than what President Obama has offered, he doesn’t think the voters will elect Mr. Romney for that reason alone.
“The American people don’t give the presidency to someone they don’t have faith in,” he explained.
Mr. Evangelidis is an outgoing personality, and at this week’s convention, he has talked up Mr. Romney to anyone who will listen. He said he tells them about the Mitt Romney he knows, whom he described as charming and funny.
Mr. Evangelidis said that people immediately show interest when they find out that he, too, is from Massachusetts.
He also spent some time on “Radio Row” – a series of radio broadcast booths lined shoulder-to-shoulder at the Tampa Convention Center — and was interviewed by National Public Radio.
If the election were today, Mr. Evangelidis thinks it would be a “close call.” That is why he feels that Mr. Romney’s Thursday night speech will be critical in the coming campaign.
“As far as I’m concerned, the campaign starts tonight,” he said, a few hours before Mr. Romney spoke. “A lot of people are just tuning in.”
Although many Republicans are optimistic, Mr. Evangelidis said he was ready to go on the record as saying that Mr. Romney will win the presidency come November.
Last week, he received another call from Mr. Kaufman, asking if he would give up his delegate seat as part of a compromise with Ron Paul supporters. But Mr. Kaufman asked Mr. Evangelidis to make the trip to Tampa nonetheless — as a guest of the Romney campaign.
Mr. Evangelidis said he was glad to give up his seat. Referring to Paul supporters, he added, “The Liberty folks have helped my campaign, and Scott Brown and I look forward to working with them in the future, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.”
Despite his good working relationship with the so-called Liberty wing of the Republican Party in central Massachusetts, he said its time for everyone to put their energy behind Mr. Romney’s campaign — and hopes any controversy from the presidential primary campaign is over.
Mr. Evangelidis said he has sensed a shift in the tides of Massachusetts politics.
“The majority of voters identify as independents for the first time in recent history,” he noted. He contended this has created opportunities for the right person with the right message to get elected, regardless of the party next to his or her name.
When asked if he will seek a different office in the 2014 midterm election, Mr. Evangelidis said he currently has “every intention” of finishing his six-year-term as sheriff, but added that he wouldn’t rule out running for a higher office.
The 6-foot-7, one-time walk-on player for the UMass Amherst basketball squad said he is not certain who is the best Massachusetts Republican on the hardwood.
But Mr. Evangelidis, who played in a lawyers league with now-Sen. Scott Brown in the 1980s, said he gets to the basket easier — while Mr. Brown has the better jump shot.