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In Split 10th, Keating, Perry Set For Showdown02:42
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Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating speaks after winning the Democratic primary in the 10th Congressional District Tuesday night. (AP)
Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating speaks after winning the Democratic primary in the 10th Congressional District Tuesday night. (AP)

State Rep. Jeff Perry, of Sandwich, is the Republican who will try to wrest the 10th Congressional District from Democrats this fall. If Perry wins, he would become the first Massachusetts Republican elected to the U.S. House since 1996.

But first, he faces a general election battle against the Democratic nominee, Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating. Keating beat his opponent, state Sen. Robert O'Leary — who represents the Cape and islands — in a close race: 51 percent to 49 percent.

The 10th encompasses the South Shore, Cape Cod and the islands, and in the Democratic primary, voters pretty much split right at the Cape Cod canal: almost every town in the Cape and islands went for favorite son O'Leary, and every town off Cape — except for Duxbury — went for Keating. Unfortunately for O'Leary, more people in the district live off the Cape than on.

The Case For Keating

Up and down the South Shore voters said they liked Keating because they know him better. Keating raised almost three times as much money as O'Leary, and he used that money to send almost daily pieces of mail to voters, most of them highlighting the fact that O'Leary said he would consider raising the retirement age for Social Security.

“I like Joe Malone, but I think he needs to move on."

Diane Reilly

It worked on Kathleen Connolly, of Hingham.

"The Social Security, the age of Social Security, was one issue, the only one I can think of off the top of my head. I just don't think it's a very Democratic position, so I voted for Keating. I thought he would be better for my family and people I know who will be retiring soon," Connolly said.

The Republican Battle

Four candidates vied for the Republican nomination, but it really came down to a battle between two: Perry and former state Treasurer Joe Malone. Perry, the candidate from the Cape, won all the towns on the Cape and islands, plus many off Cape, including the three biggest communities in the district: Quincy, Weymouth and Plymouth.

Voters said they preferred Perry for several reasons. In Hingham, Joseph Kaminsky said Perry is the Tea Party candidate.

"I believe in small government, and I would certainly hope that we can get people in Congress who can reverse whatever has been going on there, including Republicans who have been very bad," he said.

Diane Reilly saw Perry as the future and Malone as the past.

"I like Joe Malone, but I think he needs to move on," she said.

The Power Of A Phone Call

Sometimes it pays to return voters' phone calls. Steve Welch had a huge red sign for Perry on his boat in Scituate harbor. Welch, a commercial fisherman, said he tried to get in touch with Malone, with no success.

Rep. Jeff Perry announces victory in the 10th Congressional District Republican primary in Plymouth on Tuesday. (AP)
Rep. Jeff Perry announces victory in the 10th Congressional District Republican primary in Plymouth on Tuesday. (AP)

"And I made one call to Jeff Perry at his campaign office and they called me back the next day. Actually, Jeff called me back and wanted to meet with me to discuss the fishing issues that are going on now, so we set up an appointment for the following week and he actually came to my house and we spent an hour and twenty minutes talking about fisheries issues," Welch said.

Welch was among the crowd of Perry supporters at Plimoth Plantation last night. At one point, the band and the party chitchat stopped as a man waved an American flag and the crowd started to sing the national anthem.

The man waving the flag, Larry McCann, of Hanson, summed up what he believes draws people to Perry.

"Principally, they want their country back. They want to be able to turn and say to their children that they are going to be able to grow up in the same manner in which their grandparents did and their parents did," he said.

Perry said his campaign is about sending someone with conservative values to Washington.

"If you send Jeff Perry to Washington, you'll be sending a vote to repeal 'Obamacare.' If you send Jeff Perry to Washington, you'll be sending a hard-liner on illegal immigration," he said.

Perry promised a clean campaign, and warned that Democrats would come after him for his handling of two illegal strip-searches of teenagers when Perry was a Wareham police officer.

Keating, the prosecutor, did not disappoint: "And to my opponent Jeff Perry: I've got a question for you. Mr Perry, you stood five steps away as your partner on the force sexually assaulted a young girl."

Keating demonstrated that Democrats have elected a fierce campaigner as they try to hang on to the Congressional district that gave President Obama his narrowest margin in the state.

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This program aired on September 15, 2010.

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

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