Massachusetts’s 10th congressional district, which includes Cape Cod and the famed Kennedy compound, is the most conservative district in the state. Relatively speaking, of course. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+5, so “least liberal” is probably a more accurate description (by way of comparison, the 8th district, which includes Cambridge, is D+32). The 10th is exactly the kind of district that Republicans have a chance to win in this cycle. Earlier this year, Scott Brown shocked the Massachusetts political establishment by becoming the lone Republican in the state’s twelve-member congressional delegation. State representative Jeff Perry is trying to become number two.
Perry and his Democratic opponent, Norfolk County district attorney Bill Keating, are vying to succeed Rep. Bill Delahunt (D.), a seven-term incumbent who announced his retirement in March. Perry, who served with Scott Brown for eight years in the state legislature, has sought to cast himself in the junior senator’s mold and frequently touts their relationship on the campaign trail (Brown endorsed Perry six months before the Republican primary, and just two months after his own victory).
Isaac Wood, House-race editor at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter, says breaking the Democratic stronghold in Massachusetts won’t be easy but is definitely possible. “Obama is not as unpopular and the Democratic brand has not suffered as much as it has in other parts of the country,” Wood says, “but Scott Brown demonstrated that voters are willing to vote for a Republican.”
An October 18 poll by WGBH and MassINC shows the race to be nearly a dead heat; Perry leads by one point — 41 to 40 percent — among likely voters, with 13 percent undecided. “The race is very much unsettled,” Wood says. “Neither side knows for sure.”
Keating is certainly behaving like the underdog in this race. His campaign has consisted primarily of attack ads against Perry. Some of these are standard fare — for example, accusing him (falsely) of wanting to privatize Social Security. Others are more malign.
Just last week (October surprise, anyone?) a woman came forward accusing Perry, a former police sergeant, of being complicit in an illegal strip search performed on her nearly 20 years ago by an officer under Perry’s command. Since then, Keating and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have pounced, or, in the words of a Perry campaign spokesman, “littered” and “carpet-bombed” the district with material spotlighting the allegations. “Can we trust Jeff Perry?” a voice grumbles in Keating’s latest television spot. “He was steps away from a teenage girl being sexually assaulted, but did nothing to stop it.”
Perry has said he had no knowledge of the illegal search when it was taking place. “I didn’t know [it was] happening,” he said. “If I did I would have put handcuffs on him and locked him up myself.” He accuses Keating of running a “smear and fear” campaign, noting the “suspicious timing” of the allegations.
Meanwhile, state and local media have devoted plenty of ink and air time to the accuser’s side of the story. One GOP strategist tells National Review Online that the state’s liberal base is terrified that an authentic conservative like Perry (he is pro-life, supports “a hard line against illegal immigration,” and wants to repeal Obamacare) has a legitimate shot to win this race, and will do anything to stop him.