Sutter Loses

Sam Sutter’s race for the Democratic nomination in the 9th congressional district just hit a brick wall: Rob O’Leary is out of the race.

To be sure, Representative Bill Keating was always going to be the favorite in this race.  He is an incumbent member of Congress (though not an incumbent of the new 9th, technically speaking) and if there is anything the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dislikes, it’s intra-party skirmishes.  Keating lost the Cape 3-1 to O’Leary in the 2010 Democratic primary and O’Leary would have likely run well there if he could have put the resources together.  And that was looking to be very difficult as most of the institutional players on the Cape and Islands are publicly backing Keating.  Still, had O’Leary moved against Keating, a three-way race had the potential to geographically divide the district and might have given Sutter a chance to harness his organizational support in the western part of the District. 

But with O’Leary out, how does Sutter chart a path to the nomination?  Well, he doesn’t.  Keating has worked his district hard in an attempt to bring O’Leary voters to his cause and since the lines were redrawn, he’s travelled the length and breadth of the new district.  Keating’s lined up all the political powerhouses in the state and in the district and there is no indication that he isn’t liked by voters.  He’ll have a fundraising and organizational edge and his votes are in line with his party and his district.  Politically, Democrats will remember that Keating handed the Republicans a major defeat in 2010 by turning back the Tea Party candidacy of Jeff Perry.

Something big would have to give in order for Democrats to choose Sutter.  Think Marty Meehan in 1992 defeating the scandal-plagued Chester Atkins in a Democratic primary. 

Democrats have no reason to distance themselves from Keating in the 9th and with O’Leary out, Sutter has no realistic shot at the nomination. 

Update: Turns out Sutter hasn’t yet moved into the district, though that is not a constitutional requirement.  And he hasn’t yet submitted nomination papers.   Neither are a barrier (yet) but it don’t bode well for his organization, fundraising, and appeal to Democrats in the district.

Full disclosure: after he lost the Democratic nomination fight to Bill Keating in 2010, I invited Rob O’Leary to teach a course on Massachusetts State Politics in the Martin Institute which he did in the spring semester of 2011.

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.
This entry was posted in Cape Cod Politics, Southeastern Massachusetts Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sutter Loses

  1. Ned Conway (@jedwardconway) says:


    Interesting analysis. Question: have you been able to confirm DA Sutter’s positive performance at the caucuses? I’ve read that he had a presence in all the towns, even the islands. Might suggest that he has more groundwork than anticipated.

    Would be curious to hear your thoughts on my own 2 cents on the new Ninth:

  2. True Blue says:

    I respect the professor, but i must say I don’t think he is doing his research. Take a look at the numbers from 2010 again and the path for Sutter becomes clear. Take away Quincy and Weymouth from Keating (which redistricting did, and then some) and he would have lost to O’Leary by 10,000 votes. That is a huge number. Now add in the fact that 40 percent of the new 9th district is brand new to Keating. Then add the fact that that 40% comes from Sutter’s base spanning from Wareham to New Bedford to Fall River. Yes, I am sure Keating has picked up some support on the Cape since getting drubbed by O’Leary, but do we really think Keating is now beloved on the Cape, especially the lower cape? I think not. Remember, the largest city in the 10th was Quincy. Keating killed O’Leary there and eeked out the election. The largest city in the new 9th is now New Bedford. That is strongly in Sutter’s corner given all he has done there in the past 5+ years. Conventional wisdom may say Keating wins, but conventional wisdom is often wrong. Just ask Paul Walsh, who was DA in Bristol County for 16 years and outspent Sutter 8 to 1 back in 2006. Yet Sutter won it.
    I really think this is going to be a barn burner. A fascinating race about a career politician with establishment support vs. a reformer Democrat with lots of fresh thinking and a history of changing the status quo.

  3. What is the issue, or set of issues, that makes Sam Sutter so incredibly different from Bill Keating? Those issues would then have to so resonate with Democratic primary voters that they will rise up en masse to deny renomination to a sitting member of Congress? And how does Sutter break through the organizational and fundraising prowess that favors Keating and gets bigger by the day? A serious intraparty rift when control of Congress is at play is quite different from an intraparty split for a County wide office that has no bearing on a nationwide balance of power. If Rob O’Leary thought that there was a sufficient reservoir of support for a candidate other than Keating on the Cape & Islands, he would have entered the race. But that reservoir is dry even without Quincy and Weymouth in the district.

  4. Pingback: Chris Matthews | The 9th Congressional District: Not quite Sutter’s Mill.

  5. Eric Stratton says:

    With all due respect to the prof on this, I have to side with True Blue. Sutter has not even had a chance to change his shirt when Keating’s pals already started the drumbeat that Sam is somehow not entitled to run. Keating was not even a Quincy native when he moved into the Tenth to replace Delahunt. The Norfolk portion of the district was replaced with Bristol County, which at least Sutter represents ably as DA. Perhaps the professor should have asked O’Leary what he thought about Keating’s hit pieces during last year’s primary, where he unfairly suggested that Bob was going to dismantle Social Security. O’Leary never seemed to overcome the smear, and said almost as much when he announced he wasn’t running this time. O’Leary also made it pretty clear that he wanted to run, but couldn’t see how he’d be able to beat Keating’s fundraising headstart. And yea, Sutter faces the same money problems. But Sutter’s good Democratic credentials in the Bristol cities, as well as a lot of Cape Democrats who think O’Leary got cheapshotted by Keating should make for a great primary for a change. If the Globe can be relied upon, Delahunt may also be willing to give Sutter a boost in places where WMD is still popular. It’s not a great political leap to say that incumbents, even with 15 months under their belt in half the district, usually win. But let’s at least hear what Sam has to say.

  6. chris says:

    Well for sutter supporters lets take a look at his 5 years as da. New bedford is the 2nd most dangerous city in the state. Fall River is the 4th most dangerous. Both cities are in Bristol County where Sutter is da. Two murder indictments in the last six months that were dismissed because of Sutter’s prosecutor’s unethical behavior. Comm v marcus cruz where exculpatory evidence not presented to grand jury and the most recent case where one of sutter’s ada’s played a tape of defendant and his attorney for the grand jury. Lets not forget the $3,000 sutters wife took from an ex-con while sutter was running for DA. Not who I want representing me in congress.

    • jason says:

      In response to Chris, I do remember channel 10 when it came out with New Bedford and Fall River being the 2nd and 4th most dangerous cities in the Commonwealth. Sam Sutter is running because his ego has gotten the best of him in the last few years. Being DA has changed Sam into a dangerous egotistical paranoid person. He needs his name in the news to fill an inner void. He is unethical and a liar as we saw when he lied about Keatings record already. If Keating plays his cards right and looks into what Sam has really done as DA itll be a cakewalk for Keating. And maybe someone should look into Sutter bringing his employees on a work day to his campaign trips. Nice of our tax dollars paying staff of the DA Sutter to take a day off to go campaigning. I smell an investigation.

  7. Pingback: Present at the Destruction in MA09 | MassPoliticsProfs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *