|Jim Ogonowski needed more signatures|
In a major embarrassment to Republican leaders in Massachusetts and in the US Senate, Jim Ogonowski, the party hierarchy's favored candidate to challenge US Senator John F. Kerry in the fall, failed yesterday by a razor-thin margin to qualify for the GOP primary ballot.
The stunning blunder leaves only a little-known Army veteran and security specialist from Harwich, Jeff Beatty, on the GOP ballot.
Ogonowski's campaign delivered 9,970 certified voter signatures to Secretary of State William F. Galvin's election division yesterday just before the final deadline. That is 30 short of the 10,000 signatures he needed.
His only option now is to seek relief in court, where he can press his case that some local officials lost his signatures, as he asserted to Galvin's office yesterday. Or he could try to mount a write-in or sticker campaign, an extremely difficult task in a statewide race.
Ogonowski's campaign blamed its failure on several town clerks, who it said failed to properly certify and sign nomination papers, blocking his campaign from delivering the documents to Galvin's office by yesterday's 5 p.m. deadline. The campaign did not identify the clerks.
"This activity included: missing signature sheets mailed to Jim before being picked up, eliminating the possibility of a review, and great disparity between original claims of initial signature counts and actual totals," the campaign said in a statement released late yesterday. It said it was "reviewing its options" and would have no further comment.
Early in the day, Ogonowski had said he was about to file more than 10,000 certified signatures and had strongly criticized Beatty, accusing the Cape Cod businessman of practicing "gutter politics" and attacking his character for questioning the validity of 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 about 17,000 signatures and will be the only candidate on the Republican ballot. He declined to respond to Ogonowski's attack yesterday.
Ogonowski's failure to make the ballot is a serious political blow for the state's increasing anemic Republican establishment. It also creates an awkward situation for Republican Senate figures in Washington, who had rallied to Ogonowski's candidacy and ignored Beatty.
Former governor Mitt Romney hosted a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser for Ogonowski last month at the Taj Boston hotel. The candidate also won support from former governor Paul Cellucci, former lieutenant governor and former GOP state chair Kerry Healey, and a host of other GOP leaders.
A spokesman said the Massachusetts Republican Party would have no comment on Ogonowski's problems.
The National Republican Senatorial Campaign's website has listed Ogonowski as the only GOP candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, even though Senate Republicans knew Beatty was running. The committee's chairman, US Senator John Ensign of Nevada, has donated $10,000 to Ogonowski's campaign from his political committee.
Ogonowski, a 28-year Air Force veteran from Dracut, had earned a good deal of support within GOP circles for running an unexpectedly strong race against Niki Tsongas in last year's Fifth District special election to fill Martin T. Meehan's seat in the US House.