Color Cranberry Country Competitive

The natural beauty of Cape Cod is matched only by the expert pours of our local bartenders and our competitive politics.  And 2010 promises a good deal of competition.

The Cape and Plymouth are the heart of Cranberry Country and it will see its fair share of electioneering this year.  In the new 9th congressional district, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter is scheduled to announce his candidacy today to challenge Representative Bill Keating in the Democratic primary.  I fully expect Sutter to lose as there is no compelling reason for 9th District Democrats to dump an incumbent member of Congress.  The DCCC cannot be thrilled with Sutter’s candidacy nor can other Democrats around the state and in the district.  That’s bad news for Sutter if he hopes to have a career in Democratic politics after the September primary. 

Typically a high-profile intra party fight like this would be good news for the other party, even more so since the new 9th looks somewhat more amendable to the GOP.   So far, however, Cranberry Country Republicans have yet to field a top-tier candidate and it is awfully late for someone to get in.  A-listers Tom Hodgson and Timothy Cruz have not entered the race and the field is left to second tier candidate Christopher Sheldon.  The GOP can’t quite get it together in what is supposed to be fertile soil for them.  The Cape has not had a Republican represent it in Congress since Hastings Keith left office in 1973.

There are two other interesting intra party challenges on the Cape: Democratic state Representative Demetrius Atsalis of Barnstable has a challenger in Brian Mannal of Hyannis who is positioning himself as a fiscally conservative Democrat.  A smart move in Cranberry Country where moderates, conservatives, and Republicans do very well.  But like the Sutter candidacy, why would 2nd District Democrats choose to dump Atsalis?  He’s well regarded in the district, is the longest-serving member of the Cape Cod delegation, and is untouched by scandal. 

Finally we have a Republican intra party challenge.  Atsalis defeated Republican Will Crocker in the 2006 election. Crocker’s wife, Judy, is challenging incumbent Cynthia Stead for the volunteer position of GOP State Committeewoman.  This is the second time that Stead has been challenged by an officer of the Cape Cod Republican Club.  In 2008 she turned back the challenge from then CCRC Treasurer Renee Sherwood of Barnstable.

Judy Crocker is the current Vice President of the CCRC and was active in her husband’s 2006 campaign.  On her website Crocker lists a very impressive number of endorsements from well-regarded Republicans all over the Cape, including a previous boss of Stead’s, former state representative Shirley Gomes.  Sherwood had Gomes’ endorsement in 2008 and couldn’t overcome Stead but there is one endorsement that Crocker has that might just make a big difference: Jeff Perry.

I’ve written earlier about the impressive organization that the Sandwich Republicans have put together based largely, though not completely, around Perry’s runs for state representative and Congress.  Now a political appointee in the Sheriff’s office on the Cape, Perry has declined to run for another office in 2012 though most observers expect him to throw his hat in the ring for something at a later date.  That impressive organization has served as an important backbone to Cranberry country two-party politics and helps keep the area competitive.

Jeff Perry was hit hard in 2010 by Keating and state Democrats but his defeat didn’t hurt the electoral chances of his successor, Republican Randy Hunt.  Hunt defeated a very credible Democratic candidate for Perry’s old seat and inherited the strong organization that Perry put together.  Hunt will face another challenge this fall: Patrick Ellis, a former Sandwich selectman and a well know person in town politics.  The Ellis family has a long, long history in Sandwich—the oldest town on the Cape—whereas Hunt is a washashore.  That’s not a criticism—I’m a washashore as well.  Hunt’s district was altered slightly, adding the 9th precinct of Plymouth.  But that is a Republican precinct: out of 14 precincts in Plymouth, the McCain-Palin team won only 3 and the 9th was one of them.  A Hunt reelection victory in 5th Barnstable District will keep this party of Cranberry Country thoroughly red and everyone working for the State party should immediately decamp to Sandwich to listen and learn about how a local party can thrive (just doing my bit for the local economy here).

Senate President Therese Murray is likely to find herself challenged again by another member of the Sandwich Republican establishment, Tom Keyes.  While Republicans Jeff Perry and Charlie Baker were winning Plymouth, Murray held off her strongest challenger in her home town.  Keyes has not formally announced but a rematch seems likely.

Finally, Walter Monz will again attempt to claim the Democratic nomination and the right to take on Republican Charlies Cippolini’s District 1 seat on the Governor’s Council.  Monz recently received the endorsement of retiring Representative Barney Frank.  Cippolini is  best know for being the oddest member of an odd and anachronistic institution.

All in all, it looks like a nicely competitive season.

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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7 Responses to Color Cranberry Country Competitive

  1. blue says:

    Do you work for Keating or something? You ought to do an actual poll bc all i hear from people is that they love Sutter.

    • Sutter Survior says:

      People may love what they see of Sutter – but we warned – those of us who know Sutter do not love him. He speaks down to women, except his wife. He, like other politicians, not Keating, will tell you what you want to hear – does nto matter if you are a “friend” or employee and when he gets what he needs from you then BANG you are out the door. The office he runs now is full of conflict and tension caused by the leader – Sutter. He lives for conflict and political favors. Once ripping apart former DA Walsh for lining the office with “political hacks”, Sutter too has done the same – reporter’s wife, judge’s wife, politician’s children and family members, even his own family. So no I do not work for Keating – or Sutter! Sutter will loose and will crash and be forgotten but all. Just say a prayer for the current employees of the Bristol County DA Office – after this election they all have to re-apply/be evaluated for their performance – hmm in the office or helping on his campaign. I gather the later…..

    • Taxpayer says:

      What “people” are you talking to? His wife, his mother-in-law, aunts in-law, Daphne and all the other hacks he gave jobs to that they don’t even have to show up for? You know what not showing up for work gets you when you’re a Sutter appointee? Another pay raise. Vote for anybody but Sutter. Unless you’re Aaron Strojny.

  2. Blue–why do 9th District Democrats love Sutter? What is the issue or set of issues that so dramatically sets him apart from Keating that most Democrats in the district will choose the challenger over the incumbent? And given that the number one rule of politicians is that they wish to be reelected, should we assume that the elected officials who have endorsed Keating (some of whom represent portions of Bristol County where Sutter has his base of support) would have gone with Keating if they believed that the overwhelming sentiment of their constituents was to dump him? I seriously doubt it. I don’t see a path for Sutter in this race.

  3. Joe says:

    The DCCC cannot be thrilled with Sutter’s candidacy nor can other Democrats around the state and in the district.

    Maybe, there are are also plenty of people in the district who see Keating as a carpetbagger who has moved twice in the last two election cycles in order to run – and they know that having a summer home in the district doesn’t make one a real local. Sutter may not live in the part of Fall River included in the 9th, but he has been a full-time resident of the area covered by the 9th for over 30 years. People who care about such things will be for Sutter.

    Moreover, to pretend that voters will make choices purely on national issues and the power of incumbency is to ignore the particular make-up of the district. When the current districts were unveiled, the Redistricting Committee described the 9th as “[a] new, incumbent-free district made up of southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod.” Because districts have historically been drawn to favor Boston-area incumbents, southeastern Massachusetts has long been divided in a way that kept residents of the region from being viable candidates for Congress. This is a real issue for voters in cities like New Bedford, Fall River and the surrounding region who would like to see one of their own representing them in Washington. Keating’s move to run in the district is understandably resented by voters who want this to be an opportunity for the SouthCoast to elect a truly local member of Congress. To the extent that those feelings remain strong and the carpetbagging issue remains in voters’ consciousness, Sutter will benefit.

  4. Joe–were there not an incumbent member of Congress running, I think that geographic ties to the district would be very important and someone like Sutter would be a top candidate. Of course, if there were not an incumbent running, there would be a very large field of Democrats lining up for the nomination. My larger point is that it is very, very hard to unseat an member of Congress in an intra-party race without a compelling issue that will drive voters to oppose said member. And I dont’ sense that a charge of carpetbagging is compelling enough to fire up enough Democrats in the 9th to oppose Keating. Sutter may well benefit from his ties to Bristol County but other Bristol County Democrats (Marc Pacheco, Chris Markey, Bill Straus) as well as important groups such as the Plymouth & Bristol County Central Labor Council have endorsed Keating and I suspect a number of their supporters will do so as well.

  5. Joe says:

    Peter,

    I understand the point you’re trying to make, but I also think it’s too soon to tell how much of a factor the carpetbagging question and regional identity politics in general will be. At this stage, it’s at least clear that Sutter intends to emphasize his deep roots in the district as a point of contrast with Keating. I think we should wait and see how voters respond to that, particularly in the part of the district that for too long has seen its political voice diluted through gerrymandering.

    I will give Keating credit for making himself very visible in the SouthCoast portion of the 9th (which isn’t limited to Bristol County, but also includes number of Plymouth County communities which Keating has not represented before). And yes, some Bristol County politicians have helped him do that. But how many votes they can deliver for him remains to be seen: Pacheco and Straus, for example, have a mixed record on effective endorsements, and the Bristol County portion of Pacheco’s district isn’t in the 9th but the 4th (though, to be fair, Pacheco also represents Plymouth County communities that are in the 9th, like Middleboro and Wareham).

    I don’t deny that Keating has great advantages. As you point out, it’s hard to unseat an incumbent, and Keating has done a good job of lining up early endorsements. But, as others have pointed out, Sutter upset an incumbent to get his current job, and it’s too soon to tell how “compelling” his candidacy will be. If nothing else, it strikes me as premature to write off Sutter’s candidacy just yet – and efforts by state-level commentators to do so may only serve to energize SouthCoast voters who are tired of being ignored and dismissed.

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