In my column for the main site today, I lay out some reasons Republicans have to be optimistic about picking up the seat being vacated by Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA). But Democrats have some reasons to be hopeful too. One of the reasons Martha Coakley performed so poorly in the special election for U.S. Senate is that she never ran in tough partisan election before. In her races for Middlesex County district attorney and state attorney general, she faced Republican sacrificial lambs.
That won’t be a problem for at least one of Democrats vying for Delahunt’s seat. Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating had to beat an appointed Republican incumbent to win his current office in 1998. Throughout the 1990s, Republican appointees to countywide offices performed well at the ballot box in subsequent elections. At the time Keating was trying to unseat Republican DA Jeffrey Locke, Massachusetts had four other Republican district attorneys who gained their positions through appointment but held them in elections. Locke proved a strong opponent, but Keating managed to beat him.
Interestingly, then-Gov. Bill Weld appointed Locke Norfolk County DA because Delahunt resigned the position after being elected to Congress from the 10th district in 1996. When Keating was elected DA two years later, his state senate seat went to Republican JoAnn Sprague. Sprague’s state house seat went to a young Wrentham Republican named Scott Brown. Small world, isn’t it?