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.