The congressional campaign of Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Ogonowski, whose brother was the pilot of one of the jets flown into the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, got a boost yesterday when two fellow Republicans announced they won't run and will support him.
Mayor Michael Sullivan of Lawrence and former NFL player Fred Smerlas announced they will not enter the race for the seat being vacated by US Representative Martin T. Meehan and said they will support Ogonowski, the only announced GOP candidate.
"I decided to stay full time here in Lawrence," Sullivan said, adding that he had pledged to complete his second term as mayor. "We're at a tremendous time where economic development is literally at an all-time high."
Ogonowski's brother, John, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, which was heading from Boston to Los Angeles when it was hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center, killing 92 people aboard.
Ogonowski, a political novice who announced Tuesday that he would run for Meehan's seat, said his brother's death weighed heavily in his decision.
Both Smerlas and Sullivan said they were not forced out by state Republicans.
"No one tells me what to do," the former NFL lineman said. "I have faith in Jim. I believe in this guy."
If he is unchallenged in the GOP primary, Ogonowski will be able to build and conserve funds for a showdown with the Democratic nominee.
The seat has been held by a Democrat since the Nixon administration.
Six Democrats have announced their candidacies, includ ing Niki Tsongas of Lowell, widow of the late US senator Paul Tsongas; Councilor Eileen M. Donoghue of Lowell; state Representatives Barry Finegold of Andover, James Eldridge of Acton, and James Miceli of Wilmington; and party activist David O'Brien of Tewks bury.