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Adrian Walker

A different politician

By Adrian Walker
Globe Columnist / August 28, 2010

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Politicians cite all kinds of sources of inspiration, but it came as a surprise yesterday when Bill Keating invoked Regine Revelus.

Keating, who is running for Congress in the 10th District, is the district attorney of Norfolk County. And Revelus was one of the victims of one of the most terrible events of his tenure: the stabbing deaths of two of Revelus’s daughters by her son, who was subsequently shot to death by Milton police. The family has since coped with that tragedy with awe-inspiring grace and faith.

“I just think to myself that she woke up one day with [four] children and then she didn’t have four children,’’ he said. “If she can get up every day and deal with what she’s dealing with, people can do anything.’’

Keating is a leading contender in the intriguing race to succeed the retiring William Delahunt. He is pitted in the Democratic primary against state Senator Robert O’Leary, while state representative Jeff Perry and former state treasurer Joe Malone are doing battle on the Republican side. Scott Brown carried the 10th handily, fueling hopes that it could be the GOP’s best chance to win a seat in the House delegation.

By his own admission, Keating has always seemed like an accidental prosecutor, more of a problem-solver than a passionate crime fighter. When he left the state Senate in 1998 — where he had led a quixotic rebellion against longtime president William M. Bulger — many colleagues were surprised that Keating, who had no prosecutorial background, wanted to succeed Delahunt as DA.

“I actually do have a lock-’em-up side,’’ he said. “People just didn’t realize it.’’

Perhaps, but Keating’s signature initiatives have come in untraditional areas like working to help war veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, and attempting to stem the flow of OxyContin and other drugs. He defends this less-than-hardboiled approach by insisting that “you really can’t separate public safety issues from human service issues.’’

Which brings us to Amy Bishop.

Keating managed to enrage his predecessor, Delahunt, last spring by publicly suggesting that the 1986 investigation into Bishop’s shooting of her brother has been less than diligently managed. After an inquest, Bishop was indicted in Seth Bishop’s killing. She is also accused of the murder of three colleagues at the University of Alabama Huntsville in February after being denied tenure.

Some thought the indictment was unnecessary, because Bishop will surely be tried first in Alabama, where she plans to mount an insanity defense. Some critics have accused Keating of grandstanding, winning headlines by indicting someone who might never be tried here.

Certainly he violated political protocol by indirectly trashing a fellow politician in Delahunt. But he’s never cared much about such things, as his battle with Bulger demonstrated.

“My job is to be the voice of the person who isn’t here, and that’s Seth Bishop,’’ he said. “It wasn’t easy to indict her. Some witnesses had died; some had Alzheimer’s. But what if her insanity defense is successful? I think indicting her was the right thing to do.’’

Meanwhile, his opponent O’Leary made the wrong kind of news earlier this week, when the Herald reported that he missed 22 votes in 2009, 17 of them in one day, because of his teaching jobs at two area colleges. But he remains a formidable figure in parts of the district, particularly on Cape Cod. Like everyone in politics, the candidates in the 10th are groping to discover what issues will drive voters this fall. The political mood of the district can be read in many ways.

Keating said that as he tours the towns of the 10th Congressional District, he sees residents and business owners who are worried that their livelihoods could be in danger. What kind of candidate that helps is anyone’s guess.

“People are hurting,’’ he said. “I think my job — and the job of all of us in politics — is to give them hope that things will get better.’’

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com.

Correction: A column in the Aug. 28 Metro section misidentified Jeff Perry, a candidate for Congress in the 10th District. Perry is a state representative.

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