For Perry, Tea Party Is A Double-Edged Sword


by Sarah Birnbaum for WGBH

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Friday, Sept. 24

BOSTON — Tea Party favorite Jeff Perry scored an overwhelming victory in the 10th Congressional District Republican primary.   But as the general election — which pits Perry against District Attorney William Keating — picks up steam, it appears there's a dualistic relationship between Perry and the Tea Party: He seems to be pushing the movement away with one hand and embracing with on the other.

Perry has already made it clear that, in his view, Sarah Palin can just stay home.  On Tuesday, he told New England Cable News' Jim Braude that he doesn't want the Tea Party A-Lister campaigning for him.

State Rep. Jeff Perry at the Massachusetts

GOP convention. (Psmith1223/ Wikimedia)

"She's an entertainer," Perry said. "She represents the Tea Party movement nationally, but the Tea Party movement in the 10th District, whether it be the group in Quincy, the group in Pembroke or the group on the Cape, they're just hard working people who are frustrated with over-spending in government."

Later, on The Howie Carr Show on WRKO radio, Perry distanced himself from Palin again, although he admitted that calling her an "entertainer" might have been the wrong choice of words.

"What I was thinking when I said it was that she's a celebrity," Perry explained, "I don't want to interject the national Tea Party debate, I don't want to bring the issues in Delaware, in Alaska, what's going on in those races here."

But Perry rebuffed Palin as he welcomed the support of another group closely linked to the Tea Party. Perry has been showcased by the Republican Young Guns, a program led by a small group of House Republicans who espouse rollbacks of Bush-era spending, severe cuts in taxes and a tougher stance on illegal immigration. 

Perry apparently fits the profile of the type of Republican candidates the group is recruiting nationwide: young, maverick, conservative, and relatively unknown. "Jeff's campaign is a symbol of the growing momentum behind Republican candidates across the country, even in blue states like Massachusetts," said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, when announcing Perry's new distinction.

These so-called Young Guns are being supported with money and advertising from the national party.

All that support suggests Republicans in Washington think Jeff Perry has a real shot of picking up Massachusetts' 10th District Congressional seat.  It would be a key grab for the party in its effort to capture the majority in the House.  But the top brass in the Democratic party doesn't seem too concerned.

Though Perry's opponent, Keating, said he would welcome help from Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton, it's not in the cards — at least for now.  Clinton won't be seeing Keating when he comes to town this weekend to stump for U.S. Representative Barney Frank, who is running for re-election in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.

The race seems to be under the Democrats' radar.  According to respected pollster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, the chances of Democrats losing the 10th Congressional seat is only 25%.