First elected in 1984, the 18th longest-serving senator has $10 million to spend and political unknowns as his rivals.
Kerry readies to run for another six years
While John F. Kerry qualifies as the junior senator from Massachusetts, he’s an old-timer by Washington standards.
And he’s hoping to stay six years longer, if he can fend off challenges from at least three people eyeing his $165,200-a-year job, plus lingering bitterness over his failed 2004 presidential run.
None of the political unknowns can match the name recognition or financial resources of Kerry. Still, while he’s largely expected to win, the 63-year-old senator has plenty of opposition: A 7News-Suffolk poll last April found 56 percent of Massachusetts registered voters want to see someone else in Kerry’s Senate seat.
Kerry has not faced a politically formidable challenger since his 1996 race with then-Gov. William Weld, and Republicans still grumble that Kerry broke a mutually-agreed-upon campaign spending cap of $6.9 million. In 2002, Kerry won his fourth term without a major-party opponent, garnering 80 percent of the vote.
In his first election since winning the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination and losing to George W. Bush, Kerry has about $10 million in his presidential and Senate campaign accounts.
Yet Kerry has taken a drubbing lately from critics since renewing his fight with his former Vietnam comrades in arms, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, leaving a glimmer of hope for his challengers.
Ed O’Reilly, an attorney and former lobsterman, firefighter, and Gloucester city councilor and school committee member, is going against Kerry for the Democratic nomination.
O’Reilly, whose Web site is www.edoreilly.com, says Kerry’s vote in favor of the Iraq war and his refusal to take progressive positions on gay marriage and health care reform show his positions are politically calculated.
“We have to get back to our working-class roots,” O’Reilly said in an interview. “John Kerry has lost his way.”
O’Reilly faces a hurdle before he can challenge Kerry in the Democratic primary: he’ll need the vote of 15 percent of the delegates at the 2008 state convention, a feat even better-known candidates have had trouble accomplishing in recent years.
Kerry said in a prepared statement Monday that he’s busy working for an end to the Iraq war, to combat global climate change, and for better education, jobs and health care for Massachusetts residents.
“I am honored to serve Massachusetts and I am asking Massachusetts to give me that responsibility for another six years,” Kerry wrote.
Two Republicans, both relatively unknown, are hoping to face off against Kerry next November: Jeff Beatty, a national-security consultant and Harwich resident, whose Web site is www.jeffbeatty.com; and Kevin Scott, a former selectman in Wakefield, who’s on the Web at www.massforscott.com.
State Republican Party leaders formally aren’t backing either contender at this point, but they say other candidates might emerge well before next September’s party primary.
Republican Party spokesman Robert Willington said Kerry may be particularly vulnerable this year.
“Right now there’s a very large anti-incumbent mood,” he said. “If a candidate can raise enough money to get their message out, John Kerry can be vulnerable because he represents the status quo in Washington, D.C.”
Tom Benner may be reached at email@example.com.