BOSTON — Democratic congressional candidate Bill Keating is trying to keep the debate focused on Republican Rep. Jeff Perry's record as a Wareham police officer. The two are running for the open seat in the 10th Congressional District.
During the candidates' debate on New England Cable News Wednesday night, Perry was stone-faced as he took the inevitable question, as if he was realizing that he just can't leave it behind him.
Perry was a police sergeant in Wareham when an officer under his command illegally strip-searched two teenage girls. When he applied to the Massachusetts bar, Perry said one of the girls was arrested. He recently explained that he had meant she had been detained. And that's where Keating, the Norfolk County district attorney, took the debate.
"You said it's detaining? How can you confuse for a second detaining or putting someone under arrest with the sexual assault of a teenage girl? How can you do that?" Keating asked.
"Talking about sexual assaults, you're a district attorney and you should know about due process. Due process is that you get a fair hearing and you don't hold people guilty unless they're proven guilty. I was never charged. I was never disciplined, but you don't seem to matter that," Perry said.
Perry's supporters are planting his red signs in their lawns all along the coastal towns of the district. Republicans are hopeful that they can take this seat. After all, voters in the 10th district gave Sen. Scott Brown his biggest margin of victory last winter.
Keating is trying to prevent a Republican win by making good on his promise that he would run the race by holding Perry accountable for his actions as a police sergeant. Wednesday, Perry, a state representative from Cape Cod, hit back by pointing out that a defense attorney with a case Keating is prosecuting held a fundraiser for Keating this summer.
"The stories last week about accepting donations from defense attorneys and having parties for you in your congressional campaign right as a trial is pending?" Perry said.
"Well, there are so many things, I hope I get a chance. No. 1, you have a heck of a nerve to sit there and talk about influencing DAs. You know, you have a law office. You practice criminal law in that law office. You gave money yourself to the DAs, so can you sit there with a straight face and say..." Keating said.
"I gave money to the DAs?" Perry asked.
"You gave money to the DAs," Keating replied. "Tim Cruz, and you gave money to Mike O'Keefe, two DAs, and those are the DAs in your district, yet your law office does criminal work."
"Not with pending trials, not with big high-profile cases, not people having fundraisers with significant amounts of money coming your way in the congressional campaign," Perry said.
Perry's jab at Keating was a deviation from his promise to run a positive campaign, based on the issues, even as Democrats attack him. After the debate, he explained that if he is attacked, he has to defend himself.
This program aired on October 14, 2010.