Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, an unabashed liberal with strong Washington contacts who has never held elective office, is running for governor of Massachusetts.

Reich, who left the Clinton administration in 1997 and subsequently wrote the detailed and often blunt, Locked in a Cabinet, about his adventures in Washington, announced his candidacy Wednesday.

"Now the Massachusetts economy is faltering, the state budget is a mess, we have a vacuum of leadership at the top of state government.  I believe with my background, experience and skills I can help this commonwealth get back on track," Reich, 55, said in his announcement.

The Brandeis University professor began raising his profile in November when he criticized state lawmakers' budget proposals as "inhumane" and called acting Gov. Jane Swift "an embarrassment in terms of her incompetence."

Swift is serving out the term of former Gov. Paul Cellucci, who left last year to become President Bush's ambassador to Canada. She made headlines in the ensuing months by giving birth to twins, telecommuting from her home in the Boston suburbs, for lying on her marriage certificate about the number of previous marriages her husband had.

Reich, a staunch Democrat who fought with the unions for minimum wage reform and consistently supported increased training and education programs for the poor, is the author of several books, including Tales of a New America: The Anxious Liberal's Guide to the Future.

GOP spokesman Rob Gray predicted that most Massachusetts voters will find Reich's stances on issues too liberal for their taste.

A newly established "Robert Reich for Governor" Web site touts his resume and assails the decade-long control of the governor's office by Republicans.  But Reich joins an already crowded field challenging Republican Swift.

Other Democrats expected to run are Senate President Tom Birmingham, Secretary of State William Galvin, former national party Chairman Steve Grossman, Treasurer Shannon O'Brien and former state Sen. Warren Tolman.

Four of the other Democratic candidates have already collected at least $1 million in their campaign war chests, with Birmingham leading the way at just under $3 million. Swift has raised $1.7 million.

Reich, who said Sept. 11 contributed to the decision to run for governor, must garner 15 percent of the delegates at the party convention in June to qualify for the primary in September. The general election is in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.