By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff
In a major embarrassment to Republican leaders in Massachusetts and in the US Senate, Jim Ogonowski, the party's anointed candidate to challenge Democratic Senator John F. Kerry, failed by a razor-thin margin today to qualify for the GOP primary ballot.
With Ogonowski's stunning blunder, the only GOP name on the primary ballot will be Jeff Beatty, a little-known security expert from Harwich.
According to Secretary of State William F. Galvin's office, Ogonowski's campaign delivered just 9,970 certified voter signatures to its election division today just before the final deadline, 30 short of the 10,000 he needed.
His only options now are to seek relief in the courts by saying some local officials lost his signatures, as he claimed late today, or to mount a write-in campaign for the September primary.
Early in the day, Ogonowski had claimed he was about to file over 10,000 certified signatures and also lashed out at his opponent, Beatty, accusing him of practicing ''gutter politics'' and attacking his character for questioning the validity of his nomination papers.
''The ease of which my opposition has distorted the facts and has created lies and innuendo to attempt to keep me off the ballot just illustrates why most Americans do not trust politicians and why Congress has such a low approval rating,'' Ogonowski said. ''He wants to resort to gutter politics, character assassinations, legal maneuvering and questionable tactics.''
Beatty delivered over 17,000 signatures to Galvin's office. He declined to respond to Ogonowki's attack.
Ogonowski, a 28-year Air Force veteran from Dracut whose brother was one of the pilots lost in the Sept. 11 attacks, had earned a good deal of support within GOP circles for running an unexpectedly tough race before losing to Niki Tsongas in last year's Fifth District special election to fill Marty Meehan's seat. Meehan had resigned to become chancellor of University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.