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Despite His Past, Open Race Is Still Perry's To Lose02:33
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MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Clockwise from top left: Joe Malone (Courtesy of Joe Malone for Congress), Rep. Jeff Perry (AP), Ray Kasperowicz (Ray Kasperowicz for Congress), Sen. Robert O'Leary (Robert O'Leary for Congress) and Norfolk District Attorney William Keating (AP). Of the 10th district's remaining contenders, Perry is the frontrunner.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Clockwise from top left: Joe Malone (Courtesy of Joe Malone for Congress), Rep. Jeff Perry (AP), Ray Kasperowicz (Ray Kasperowicz for Congress), Sen. Robert O'Leary (Robert O'Leary for Congress) and Norfolk District Attorney William Keating (AP). Of the 10th district's remaining contenders, Perry is the frontrunner.

This week, Rep. Jeff Perry opened his third storefront campaign office — this latest one in Quincy.

"Everywhere we go," Perry says, "whether it be at fundraisers, whether it be at rallies on immigration, whether it be this opening of our third office, we're seeing this energy, this enthusiasm — large numbers of people coming forward to send a message to Washington."

No other candidate even has a storefront office. Perry is ahead in other ways, too: He is the first candidate to raise more than a quarter-million dollars. "Endorsements? I think we have the best endorsements," Perry says. "Don't you? Scott Brown, Mitt Romney."

This week, Perry, a state representative for the Cape towns of Barnstable, Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich, flew to Washington, where Sen. Brown held a fundraiser for him. The senator is holding another fundraiser for Perry on Cape Cod next week.

At Perry's campaign office in Sandwich, Kay Merrell says she's volunteering because she thinks Perry is doing a great job representing her. "If you try to contact him, he gets right back to you the same day," Merrell says.

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Perry's main opponent in this race is his own past. In the early 1990s, he was a sergeant with the Wareham Police Department. Another police officer conducted illegal strip searches of two teenage girls. Perry found out about one strip search and went to the girl's house to talk to the parents, but didn't report anything to his superior officers until the next day. He was present during another illegal strip search, but said he never saw it. Republican political analyst Todd Domke says Perry's candidacy cannot survive these stories.

"There have been revelations that he can't explain, and frankly, he just doesn't have any believability on this, and it's very disturbing, and Republicans won't want to be defending the indefensible," Domke says.

But Perry has a few things going for him. For one, voters are excited about him.

On a gorgeous Friday evening, when they could be outside, more than 200 people pack a dark American Legion Hall in Quincy.

"Wake up, America!" Perry says. "We're here! Yeah!"

The people in the room are inspired by his take on illegal immigration."A nation without borders is not a nation," Perry says. "When I say immigration reform, I mean secure the damn border."

One of his supporters is John Kelly, a law enforcement officer from Quincy wearing a "Don't Tread on Me" t-shirt. "I think he's the only one out there right now that's speaking for the people," Kelly says.

Chris Chapman, an automotive technician from Quincy, likes Perry's promise to cut taxes. "I'm sick of giving handouts to people and having myself pay for it," Chapman says. "I enjoy giving to charity. I don't want to be forced to give to charity through my taxes."

An hour away, at a Little League game in Pocasset, Laurel Brown Proto, from Mashpee, is willing to give Perry the benefit of the doubt on his past.

"I don't think you should start digging up things about people," Proto says. "And I think he should be judged on what he's done in the recent past. You can't get decent people to run if they feel their whole life is going to be torn apart."

Perry has another advantage over his opponents: They're just not generating the same excitement he is. His main rival in the Republican primary, former state Treasurer Joe Malone, does have the endorsement of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Gov. Paul Cellucci. And this month, Malone did attract 150 people to a breakfast in Quincy.

"Let's keep the American dream alive and well," Malone told supporters. "What we have here is unique, and starting next November, let's turn this ship around."

But the crowd was pretty much the usual suspects at a state Republican event: Coats and ties, loyal party people, not a whole lot of energy — none of the new people Perry seems to be drawing in.

Even fewer people attend the Democrats' events. This week, one of the two Democratic candidates, state Sen. Robert O'Leary, who represents the Cape and Islands, was telling about 30 people on the Falmouth Democratic Town Committee how daunting a race this could be for Democrats.

"This is a swing district," O'Leary says. "This is a district dominated by independents. This is a district that does not have an incumbent, and this is a district that Scott Brown carried by more than 60 percent of the vote."

The other Democrat in the race, Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating, never showed up. For now, it looks like this is still Perry's race to lose.

This program aired on June 18, 2010.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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