The New MA-09: Notes from Cranberry Country

It’s not the foliage that looks a little bit more red this season.  The new congressional maps put out today create a new district on the South Coast, Cape and Islands-the very heart of Cranberry Country.  Democrat Bill Keating is moving into his home in Bourne and will contest the district, avoiding a divisive primary fight with Stephen Lynch in the new MA-08.  But will he encounter a few obstacles.

Keating lost the heart of the new district, Plymouth, to Jeff Perry, who also did very well on the Cape and in Kingston, Marshfield, and Norwell–all of which remain in the new district.  He overwhelmed Perry in his base of support, Quincy.  And now the City of Presidents belongs to Stephen Lynch.  He is gaining parts of the South Coast–Middleborough and Wareham over to Fall River.  The South Coast cities of New Bedford and Fall River will be hospitable to him, perhaps replacing Quincy as his new Democratic base of support.  The small towns on the Coast are less hospitable.  But Keating has shown a willingness to work his district hard and I’d expect him to be quite a presence in the new district very soon.

The first question is whether the South Coast cities or the Cape produce a Democratic challenger.  Rob O’Leary outpaced Keating on the Cape and Keating only barely beat him in Plymouth.  South Coast Democratic pols might also view this as the moment to launch an intra party skirmish from their base of support.

Two words are likely to keep them from doing so: Scott Brown. Brown needs to continue a high level of support in Cranberry Country to beat back the Democratic challenge.  A divisive primary between an incumbent member and high-profile challengers will energize the GOP here and has the potential to keep some Democrats from voting for the eventual congressional nominee.  Look for signs from the DCCC and the Warren camp that they do not want any division from the new MA-09 Democrats.  They will very publicly urge local Democrats to rally behind Keating.

The second challenge to Keating is from the GOP.  There are a number of popular Republican state representatives from this part of the state who might view this as an opportune time to take on an incumbent.  While Keating is still getting to know his district, they already call it home and this is the most likely shot they have at gaining a foothold.  A party wide effort with Scott Brown leading the charge might just pay off–particularly if the economy remains rather stagnant Obama somewhat unpopular.  Again, the real threat of a strong Republican challenger (look to the locally popular State Representatives and Sheriffs) will ensure that DC Democrats do all they can to keep other Dems out of the primary race.

The stakes are high.  Massachusetts voters rarely turn out incumbent members of Congress.  If Keating wins over this new district in 2012, he’s likely to keep it as long as he likes.  If challengers don’t strike now, they are not likely to get a better shot in future.

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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2 Responses to The New MA-09: Notes from Cranberry Country

  1. Pingback: MA to See Pro-Democracy Movement? | MassPoliticsProfs

  2. RON BEATY says:

    Ever since colonial times, counties have existed in conjunction with Massachusetts government. Barnstable County was founded in the year 1685. Initially, counties had mainly judicial purposes; however, gradually more and more duties were assimilated, like management of the local prison system, control of specific medical care institutions, roadway maintenance, farming matters and recording of real estate deeds. Massachusetts statutes decreed the process by which elected public officials were chosen, such as county commissioners, clerks of courts, county sheriffs, registers of deeds and probate, as well as district attorneys.

    Up until a quarter century ago, Barnstable County was akin to other counties within the state; it had no legislative power. That all changed with the Barnstable County Home Rule Charter of 1988. It created specific rights of home rule, along with more and better prospects for improved citizen involvement regarding the Cape Cod regional government. The Charter authorized establishment of a regional legislative body known as the County Assembly of Delegates, which has the power to promulgate laws of regional impact and jurisdiction.

    Said Charter declares: ” We, the people of Barnstable County, in order to gain for ourselves and for our communities all the rights, powers, privileges, duties, and obligations which may now or in the future be derived from county government, do establish for ourselves and for our communities the means and structure to deal with regional issues which transcend the existing boundaries of municipal governments. This home rule charter for Barnstable County places the power and responsibility to deal with unique problems of Barnstable County in a county government directly responsible to the people of Barnstable County.”

    In recent months, members of the “Barnstable County Special Commission on County Governance” (appointed by the County Commissioners) have been and continue to hold meetings to explore and examine the structure and role of the regional government here on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As a native-born Cape Codder, I take this opportunity to express my views regarding the structure and status of our regional government. In recent years, I have first-hand experience in dealing with the County Administrator, the Assembly of Delegates, the County Commissioners, as well as other county components. I have always found each of these experiences to be highly positive, enlightening, informative, worthwhile and cordial.

    The Special Commission claims it seeks to address the need for strong executive county administrative leadership; the existing two branch structure of the regional government; the representation and role of the Board of regional Commissioners; the representation and role of the Assembly of Delegates; as well as the County’s relationship with the fifteen towns of Barnstable County.

    The Special Commission needs to fully approach its task in a fair and balanced manner, something it has apparently failed miserably at up to this point in time. Furthermore, it needs to be logical and reasonable about any final recommended changes to the Cape Cod Regional Government.

    I have a very straightforward and simple statement to communicate to the Special Commission. The existing fundamental structure of our regional government is just fine at present and functions quite well exactly the way that it presently is! It does NOT require any drastic changes (like a ‘mayor of Cape Cod’) or “tweaking” as some others may have suggested. Many Cape Codders (myself included), would be vehemently opposed to any sort of radical reorganization or restructuring of our County government from its current existence.
    I would like to emphatically voice my absolute opposition to one particular ill-advised and undemocratic course of action recently presented to the Special Commission, the complete abolition of the County Assembly of Delegates. The Assembly of Delegates is the duly elected democratic voice of the people of Cape Cod, and provides us with the requisite protections against overzealous special interest groups and power hungry individuals.

    The County Assembly as a representative legislative body is the epitome of the American system of “checks and balances” as embodied in both the Barnstable County Home Rule Charter and the United States Constitution.

    245 Parker Road
    West Barnstable, MA 02668
    Phone: (508) 362-2043

    Ron Beaty, M.Ed, M.S. is a native Cape Codder, citizen activist, and graduate student of public policy.

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