In The 10th Congressional District, A Tense Race For An Open Seat

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The balance of Congress is at stake, so both national parties are jumping into the race for the 10th Congressional District. With Democratic Rep. William Delahunt retiring, the district has the state's only race for an open congressional seat, and the Democrats are pulling out all the stops to try to keep it.

In the towns of the South Shore, there's a new fall color — Jeff Perry red. The Republican candidate's signs are sprouting up in yards everywhere. Perry is capturing the support of people such as Jay Kennedy. Kennedy used to support Delahunt, but he doesn't like President Obama's proposal to raise income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year.

"I mean, the tax increases that are coming in January alone are just through the roof. People have no conception, and they go: 'Oh, small businessman. Oh, that guy, we're going to get that guy that makes a quarter of a million,' " Kennedy says.

Kennedy allowed Perry to hold a news conference at Kennedy Carpet, in Weymouth, last week, to announce that he's getting the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The endorsements usually come with television ads. The National Republican Congressional Committee is already helping Perry with television ads that emphasize the difference in the candidates' positions on income taxes for people who make more than $250,000 a year.

The Republicans are paying so much attention to this district because of all the congressional districts in Massachusetts, the 10th gave Mr. Obama his narrowest margin of victory in the state. Perry seems poised to capture it for the Republicans, so the Democrats are also going on the offensive.

Wareham was where Perry used to serve as a police sergeant, and it's where a television ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is trying to get voters to focus. Perry supervised a Wareham officer who conducted two illegal strip searches of teenage girls.

Perry calls the ad highly offensive, saying it is "one of the lowest ads I've ever seen in my observations of politics."

The DCCC's ads reinforce the message of Democratic candidate Bill Keating's own TV ad.

Perry is fighting back with an ad that features his old boss.

The population in the 10th district is the oldest in the state, with a median age of 40. Keating says people in the district are fearful right now, "because you have a lot of people either retired or approaching retirement, and they supplement it with 401ks, their own private investment. They were hurt, seriously hurt, financially, with the Wall Street collapse," Keating says.

So Democrats are also trying to pry voters away from Perry by talking about Social Security. The DCCC has sent three mailings saying Perry supports cutting Social Security benefits and increasing the retirement age. Perry says the mailing is designed to put fear in the voters.

"I do not favor any changes to the retirement benefits for anyone in Social Security or anyone 50 years of age or older," Perry says.

This fall, from Quincy to Provincetown, the voters in this congressional election find themselves in an unusual situation for Massachusetts: both sides in Washington think they can be won over.

This program aired on October 13, 2010.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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