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Setting the stage for November

Perry, Keating to race in 10th; Lynch cruises to an easy win

John Cotter of South Boston and his dog, Braddock, backed their candidate on L Street. Turnout was light across the state. John Cotter of South Boston and his dog, Braddock, backed their candidate on L Street. Turnout was light across the state. (John Tlumacki/ Globe Staff)
By Frank Phillips and Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / September 15, 2010

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State Representative Jeffrey D. Perry, a Cape Cod Republican who captured the conservative wing of his party, handily won the GOP nomination last night for the open 10th District congressional seat and will face Democrat William R. Keating, the Norfolk district attorney, following a state primary election yesterday that offered hints of GOP enthusiasm up and down the ticket.

Perry beat former state treasurer Joseph D. Malone by a 2-to-1 ratio while two other candidates in the Republican primary trailed far behind, on a day of contested races in each party that set the stage for an intense general election campaign. Keating edged state Senator Robert A. O’Leary, a Barnstable Democrat.

In the state’s only serious Democratic contest in US House races, incumbent Stephen F. Lynch, a Democrat from South Boston, easily defeated challenger Mac D’Alessandro, a union organizer who sought to tap into liberal anger over Lynch’s opposition to President Obama’s health care plan and his earlier support for the Iraq war.

Elsewhere, Republican voters chose nominees to take on veteran Democrats in Congress, who are under a collective threat in this year of anti-incumbent fervor.

Perry, a four-term legislator from Sandwich who was endorsed by Senator Scott Brown and former governor Mitt Romney, declared victory last night at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, telling a crowd of cheering supporters that he will seek to repeal the new national health care law and be a “hard-liner on illegal immigration.’’

“We are taking our country back!’’ he said. “We have had enough.’’

At his victory party in Quincy, Keating also lashed out against Washington, saying voters were sick of Congress wasting money, “selling out to Big Oil,’’ backing Wall Street bailouts, and failing to create jobs.

“To every man and woman and child in this district who wants to fix Washington — this victory belongs to you,’’ Keating said at the Sons of Italy in Quincy. “You and I can tell that Washington is broken, but down there they don’t see what’s wrong as clearly as we do.’’

Voters yesterday also picked nominees for two key statewide offices, along with a host of open legislative seats, in an unusually crowded primary day across the state. Turnout, however, was light, especially compared with four years ago, when three Democratic candidates for governor battled for the nomination.

Steven Grossman, a businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman, beat Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy for the party’s nod for treasurer and will now face state Representative Karyn E. Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican, who had no primary opponent.

“The voters of the state made a statement today: They want the next treasurer to reform the way we do business in the Commonwealth,’’ Grossman said last night.

And Suzanne Bump, a former state lawmaker and state labor secretary, handily won the Democratic auditor’s nomination over Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis and Democratic activist Michael Lake. In the Republican race for auditor, Mary Z. Connaughton of Framingham, a former Turnpike Authority member, easily won her primary race against Kamal Jain of Lowell.

The state GOP is looking for a major resurgence this fall. Aside from controlling the governor’s office, the GOP has not seriously contested major Democratic officeholders in recent years and has watched its numbers in the Legislature dwindle.

Yesterday’s Republican turnout statewide, and particularly in the 10th Congressional District, was a significantly higher percentage of the overall turnout than in comparable recent races, a sign that GOP voters were more energized than their Democratic counterparts.

“I’m hearing from our Republican activists and boots on the ground that Republican voters are out in pretty good numbers to have their voices heard in this election and there’s a lot of excitement,’’ said Jennifer Nassour, chairwoman of the state Republican Party. “Voters are so sick of do-nothing Democrats and they’re sick of the taxing and spending.’’

But John Walsh, the state Democratic Party chairman, said his party feels good about the choices facing voters on Nov. 2.

“We see the Republicans in Massachusetts, like the Republicans nationally, in a battle for their core, with hard right-wing candidates like Jeff Perry and [Sixth Congressional District candidate] Bill Hudak leading the way,’’ he said. “Republicans will now have the chance to decide whether they will follow the national Republicans in this Tea Party surge.’’

Bolstering the GOP election efforts is Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles D. Baker’s strong challenge to Governor Deval Patrick’s bid for a second term; neither man faced opposition for his party’s nomination yesterday.

Complicating Republicans’ strategy is the presence in the race of independent Timothy P. Cahill, the state treasurer, who left the Democratic Party to run for governor. He is trying to undercut Baker’s strategy to appeal to conservative Democrats. Patrick is facing a challenge from the left from Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein.

In the federal races, while Perry has fired up the Republican base, it is not clear how the other GOP challengers, most of whom are underfunded and who have little or no experience in politics, will fare in trying to dislodge well-financed and politically savvy incumbents.

The state GOP is particularly focused on mounting strong challenges against US Representatives Barney Frank of Newton, Niki Tsongas of Lowell, and James P. McGovern of Worcester. Frank, who had a nominal Democratic challenger yesterday, will face Sean Bielat, a political newcomer from Brookline. Jon Golnik, a Carlisle businessman making his first bid for office, will take on Tsongas, and Marty Lamb, a Holliston lawyer, will face McGovern.

The Republican enthusiasm reflects a change in Massachusetts politics since Brown’s stunning upset in the US Senate race in January. His victory, which tapped into voter anxiety and anger over the economy, stunned Democrats across the nation.

Those sentiments were palpable yesterday as voters went to the polls.

“I want to throw the bums out,’’ said Libby Albanese, a 53-year-old union pipefitter who was voting at the L Street Bath House in South Boston. “I used to vote for the Democrats, but no more . . . The guys I work with, they’ve all been voting Democratic, too, but they’re sick of it.’’

Nevertheless, Albanese said he took a Democratic ballot yesterday and did not vote for Patrick but backed two South Boston Democrats — newcomer Nick Collins for state representative and Lynch, because he is a “conservative Democrat’’ who opposed the health care law.

John Shaughnessy, a 56-year-old NStar utility worker also casting a ballot at the L Street Bath House, said he voted for Patrick in 2006 but recently changed his affiliation from Democrat to unenrolled and is planning to vote for Baker in November.

“The government is not working in a one-party state,’’ he said. “We definitely need a more level playing field because things are not getting done.’’

Still, the crop of Republican congressional candidates this year has its liabilities.

Perry, for example, withstood publicity during the primary about his role as a Wareham police sergeant in the 1990s, when he supervised an officer who illegally strip-searched two teenage girls. But the Democrats are already hitting him hard over the issue as both parties look ahead to a major battle.

In the Fifth District, Golnik acknowledged recently that he was arrested in 2001 for charges of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. And in the Sixth District, Hudak, a first-time candidate and Boxford lawyer, easily defeated Saugus lawyer Robert J. McCarthy Jr. and will now challenge US Representative John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat who has held the seat since 1997.

But Hudak has been facing questions about his statements urging a local newspaper to investigate whether Obama is a US citizen, and about a sign he once placed in his yard that compared Obama to Osama bin Laden.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com, Frank Phillips at phillips@globe.com.

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