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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