Payne & Domke: Perry Scandals Heat Up Tight 10th Race

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It may be the last days of summer, but we are at the start of Massachusetts’ prime political season.

Right now the 10th congressional district has become one of the most competitive political races: Two Democrats and four Republicans are vying for the seat of retiring Rep. William Delahunt.

The GOP race is particularly heating up, as state Rep. Jeffrey Perry found himself on the defensive about his record while he was a Wareham police officer during a debate on NECN on Tuesday.

Acknowledging he made some mistakes, Perry said, "I was 23 years old, I was a new police officer, so if anyone thinks — my opponents or the media or the folks watching — that I'm sitting here saying I was a perfect police officer, I wasn't. I was a young guy, I did the best that I could. Sure I've made mistakes as a police officer, and I've learned from them."

For a check on the race, WBUR turned to its political analysts, Democrat Dan Payne and Republican Todd Domke.

Dan Payne (Chase Gregory)
Dan Payne (Chase Gregory)

Dan Payne (D): The 10th congressional district race is important for several reasons: It’s an open seat — there’s no incumbent on the ballot. Second, just one seat could be crucial in determining who controls Congress. It’s a district that trends Republican — Sen. Scott Brown won it with 60 percent of the vote. And because Brown won an upset, lots of national media are trying to gauge if Brown was a fluke or a trend.

This race will be watched by the national media because there are so many people in the business with Massachusetts roots. There’s John King at CNN, Mark Shields on PBS, E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post, Rick Klein at ABC News and The Note. They all follow Massachusetts politics closely.

It also has national implications because former Gov. Mitt Romney has supported state Rep. Jeffrey Perry, who’s a train wreck. Romney did it because he’s paying back former state Treasurer Joe Malone. Malone didn’t support Romney for president and went to New Hampshire and stumped for Rudy Giuliani. When Giuliani left the race, Malone then supported John McCain over Romney.

On the Democratic side, the district is divided between Cape Cod, represented by state Sen. Robert O’Leary, and the South Shore and Quincy, which is considered Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating’s base. Turnout may tell the tale in the primary, which is only one month away.

"(Rep. Perry) makes former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoevich look like Honest Abe."

Dan Payne (D)

O'Leary began airing his first TV ad recently. It’s pro-environment and urges a withdrawal from Afghanistan. He’s also gotten endorsed by former state environmental officials. O'Leary has been against Cape Wind, the wind farm in Nantucket Sound — the Cape and Islands are in his district so he probably felt cold winds blowing from his constituents who are against the project.

Keating initially opposed Cape Wind, but has now endorsed the project — he probably saw that he had the chance to be the only candidate in favor of the wind farm — because both major Republicans, Malone and Perry, oppose it.

I don’t expect Delahunt will get involved publicly in the primary, although he has no love for Keating, who succeeded him as district attorney. If Delahunt decides to express a preference, he would need to make sure his support would put that candidate over the top. But there’s no clear front-runner now.

The scandals surrounding Perry fall under the Rule of Three. Maybe Perry could survive his witnessing and probable covering-up illegal strip searches of two teenage girls that he did not report. The officer he supervised went to jail. Perry survived and called his role “good police work.”

Maybe Perry could get away with claiming he graduated with a 3.8 GPA from a diploma mill — it was a PO Box in Louisiana. This place makes the Ajax School of Trucking Driving look like Oxford.

Maybe he could get away with the latest revelation — that he got passed over for a promotion because the police chief said did not tell the whole truth and set up bogus red light traps.

But all three? He makes former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoevich look like Honest Abe.

Not that Malone doesn’t have his own troubles: an embezzlement scandal by two of his employees who stole millions while he was state treasurer. While the stealing wasn’t by him, it calls into question how well-managed his office was. But that’s nothing compared to what Perry has done.

Before we give this election to the Republicans, we should remember that before Delahunt won it in 1996, the seat had been held by Democrat Gary Studds since 1973. So it’s been blue for 37 years.

Todd Domke (Chase Gregory)
Todd Domke (Chase Gregory)

Todd Domke (R): The race in the 10th district will help determine whether this will become a true two-party state. If the GOP gains a toehold by winning one of our 10 congressional seats, more people will run for office next time. Those who want Massachusetts to remain a one-party state hope that Brown’s victory in the special Senate race was a fluke. But many of us hope it was the beginning of a new era of real competition, not just for governor, but for Congress and other offices.

Jeff Perry continues to be plagued by scandal. Earlier in the campaign, there was a drip-drip-drip of revelations about his having failed to report a friend and fellow police officer for illegal strip searches of teenage girls. Now it is a flood of scandal stories. Every time he answers a question about a scandal it raises new questions because he keeps contradicting himself — even contradicting past sworn testimony.

A recent Perry scandal story was his having advertised on a campaign website that he had a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from a fake school called Columbia State University. It was a complete fraud: no faculty, no campus, no accreditation. Now his story is that he was suckered into sending a few thousand dollars to buy that quickie diploma through the mail. He was a victim of misleading advertising. That must have been a very persuasive matchbook. But you would think a police officer might be a little suspicious and do some investigating first. Fortunately, he was smart enough not to mail his check for that law degree from Harvard Community College. He even put on his website that he had a 3.8 GPA from the fake school, and said he graduated with a double major. I’m surprised he didn’t claim that one major was Ethics.

"People don’t expect perfect leaders, but they want them to be fundamentally decent and honest."

Todd Domke (R)

Brown and Romney endorsed Perry earlier, before all the revelations, and they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for him. They will be embarrassed if he wins the primary and they have to continue to support him and raise money for him. Imagine if they have to campaign for him and explain to reporters why they endorse a man who failed to report — and even covered up — for a friend who went to prison for the illegal strip searches, a candidate who was reprimanded by his police chief for being untruthful, for deliberately triggering red lights to catch drivers and give them tickets, for advertising a fake college degree? Perry is unable to explain away his own conduct; how can they?

The Boston Globe ran a story a few weeks ago about the ups and downs of the other main GOP candidate, former Treasurer Malone. It was a fair article, and you see that he’s had success and failure. But when he failed — like being part owner of a restaurant that went bankrupt, as about half of new restaurants do — he took responsibility, he didn’t lie about it. And as treasurer he proved he was a real reformer, cutting operating expenses by 62 percent, saving millions in the pension fund, saving millions at the Lottery. Perry has not taken responsibility for his mistakes — he has covered up, blamed others, and doesn’t tell the truth. People don’t expect perfect leaders, but they want them to be fundamentally decent and honest. They want them to be trustworthy.

Both Democratic candidates are kind of bland, and not really inspiring. That is not disqualifying, but they don’t seem to be generating any real excitement. Keating advertises on his website that as a state senator he stood up to former Senate President William Bulger. He said he risked “everything” back in the day. I assume he is implying that his opponent, O’Leary, hasn’t been as brave and independent. It’s a good message — that voters should support candidates who will stand up to the Democratic leaders of the Legislature. In other words, vote Republican.

The Perry scandal will probably go national. We’ve had all kinds of scandal news about candidates around the country — embellishing their resumes, lying, fraud, abuse of power and covering up. But Perry is the complete package. Put him in a reality show with Blagojevich. Call it “The Biggest Liar.” I’m sure it would be a big hit.


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