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New look for GOP on ballot

Party rivals crowd Tuesday’s primary

By Robert Preer
Globe Correspondent / September 12, 2010

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In past Massachusetts elections, winning the Republican nomination for a seat in the Legislature or Congress was not too difficult. An aspiring officeholder needed only to register as a Republican at least six months before the election, then collect the required number of signatures — 150 for the state House of Representatives, 300 for state Senate, and 2,000 for Congress.

In most years, so few people sought the party’s nominations that anyone who wanted to get on the November ballot as a Republican typically had a clear path.

But this year, something new has come to the GOP nominating process: competition.

In eight of the Bay State’s 10 congressional districts, two or more Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination. And on Beacon Hill, there are contested GOP primaries for 13 House seats and six in the Senate. All of the party races will be decided in the state primary on Tuesday.

Statewide, more than twice as many Republicans are running for office than in 2008.

In communities south of Boston, there are contested GOP races for all three of the area’s congressional seats, as well as three state House seats, and one state Senate slot.

“We definitely did recruit candidates, but there also is a lot of voter interest in politics this year,’’ said Tarah Breed, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Republican Party. “There is really a desire for change on Beacon Hill this year.’’

Michael Kryzanek, a professor in Bridgewater State College’s political science department, said the contested primaries suggest a grass-roots resurgence of the Republican Party. “They now have enough of a recruiting class, they are able to have competition among themselves,’’ he said.

Scott Brown’s upset victory in the special US Senate election in January demonstrated that a Republican can win at the top levels in Massachusetts. Before Brown’s win, all of the state’s seats in Congress and all statewide offices were held by Democrats.

There are 15 Republicans in the 160-member state House of Representatives, and five in the 40-member state Senate.

The 10th Congressional District, left without an incumbent when William Delahunt decided against seeking reelection, has drawn four Republican candidates: Jeffrey D. Perry of Sandwich, Joseph D. Malone of Scituate, Raymond Kasperowicz of Cohasset, and Robert E. Hayden III of Hanover.

Republicans Keith P. Lepor of Boston and Vernon M. Harrison of Braintree are competing in the Ninth Congressional District, represented by Democrat Stephen F. Lynch of Boston.

In the Fourth District, a seat held by Democratic US Representative Barney Frank of Newton, Earl H. Sholley of Norfolk and Sean Bielat of Brookline are vying for the GOP nomination.

Two Republicans, Ben Wilson Burns Quelle of Middleborough and Joseph M. Truschelli of Plymouth, are running in the primary for the state House’s 12th Plymouth District. The seat is held by Democrat Thomas J. Calter of Kingston.

In the House’s Fifth Plymouth District, Republicans Jared L. Valanzola and Korey M. Welch, both of Rockland, are vying for their party’s nomination. The seat has been vacant since the death of Democratic Representative Robert Nyman on June 25. His widow, Rhonda Nyman, is the only Democrat running for the post.

In the Fourth Bristol state representative race, Republicans Steven S. Howitt and David P. Saad, both of Seekonk, are competing for a place on the November ballot against Democratic incumbent Stephen J. D’Amico of Seekonk.

The Norfolk, Bristol & Plymouth District seat in the state Senate, held by Democrat Brian A. Joyce of Milton, has drawn two Republican hopefuls, Canton Selectman Robert E. Burr Jr. and a former Milton Town Meeting representative, Richard Livingston.

Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman John E. Walsh of Abington questions the notion that the increased number of GOP candidates this year is a sign of the party’s revival. He said many of the candidates, especially the congressional hopefuls, hold extreme views and were not recruited by the party, but were inspired to run by Brown’s win over the state’s incumbent attorney general, Democrat Martha Coakley.

“In many cases, the candidates popped up on their own,’’ Walsh said. “Some of them represent a very right-wing fringe.’’

Burr, 44, said he decided to run for Senate because as a three-term selectmen he was frustrated with Beacon Hill’s inattention to the needs of local communities. He also said he believes Massachusetts needs to have a two-party system. “My involvement isn’t because of Scott Brown,’’ he said.

However, Livingston, 57, said he was inspired by Brown’s campaign. “His message was that these seats belong to the people,’’ he said.

The Republican rivals for the Norfolk, Bristol & Plymouth seat both have been campaigning hard since early spring. The suburban district is made up of the Avon, Canton, Milton, Randolph, Stoughton, West Bridgewater, and parts of Braintree, Easton, East Bridgewater, and Sharon. Joyce has held the seat since 1998, and served two years as a state representative before that.

“I’ve been knocking on doors in all 10 towns,’’ Livingston said. “I’ve worn out the soles of two pairs of shoes.’’

Burr said he also has been visiting with residents across the district. “I think it’s very important to go door-to-door in all of the communities,’’ he said.

Both men describe themselves as fiscal conservatives, and have voiced support for lower taxes and tighter curbs on government spending

Livingston, who works in the payroll division of the state Transportation Department, said he would be a full-time legislator. “I’m not interested in having a law practice or capital investments,’’ he said.

The incumbent Joyce is a lawyer with a private practice, and Burr runs his own financial services business.

Burr said he is better qualified to serve in the Legislature because of his seven years of experience as a selectman in Canton, and before that as a member of the town’s Conservation Commission.

Robert Preer can be reached at preer@globe.com.

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