Campaign 2010

Diehards ignore 10th District polls

Backers of long shots see hope in undecided voters

Before a candidates’ forum, Betty and Bill Brackett of East Falmouth held signs for Maryanne Lewis at the entrance to Cape Cod Community College. Before a candidates’ forum, Betty and Bill Brackett of East Falmouth held signs for Maryanne Lewis at the entrance to Cape Cod Community College. (Steve Haines for The Boston Globe)
By David Filipov
Globe Staff / November 1, 2010

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BARNSTABLE — Bill and Betty Brackett are volunteer foot soldiers on the front lines of one of the most closely watched races for the US House in the country: the 10th Congressional District.

The 61-year-old retirees from East Falmouth haul American flags and campaign posters in their 36-foot-long Winnebago to the cranberry bogs, train stations, oyster festivals, and everywhere else their candidate has been appearing.

They give of their time and energy tirelessly despite what many observers believe is an incontrovertible fact: their candidate, independent Maryanne Lewis, has almost no chance of winning, garnering only 3 percent support in a recent Globe poll.

“Miracles can happen, even in politics,’’ Bill Brackett said as he and his wife joined about two dozen other Lewis supporters outside Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable Friday. “We really feel like we can win.’’

They are the diehards, like those supporting the two other independents in the race — James A. Sheets, the former mayor of Quincy, and Joe van Nes — and other seemingly long-shot campaigns across the state.

So close to Election Day and so far behind in the polls, they are sticking it out, handing out fliers, shaking hands, and waving at endless passersby. They are steadfast in their belief that democracy makes any outcome possible, especially in Massachusetts, where the same Globe poll that showed their candidates behind also suggested that 23 percent of voters have yet to make up their minds. The Democratic candidate, William R. Keating, polled at 37 percent and Republican Jeffrey D. Perry at 33 percent.

“We have a good feeling,’’ said Dorothy Alcorn, 77, who has been volunteering for Sheets with her husband, Kenneth, 82. “Since Day One.’’

On Friday, the Alcorns sat with Sheets and several other volunteers in the campaign headquarters in Quincy, on a lunch break between forays into the city to knock on doors and hand out fliers.

Sheets, who has ward maps of Quincy on the wall behind his desk, said he has strong support in the city and in Weymouth, where he has done most of his campaigning. South of Weymouth, he said, his support network consists mainly of his former students at Quincy College, where he taught history and government for many years.

“I think we all feel the same way about it,’’ said volunteer Kenneth Moran. “We based this campaign on faith.’’

Sheets’s platform includes tough measures against illegal immigration (close the Mexican border, no amnesty for illegal immigrants in the country) and on the economy (repeal the Wall Street reform bill, abolish Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, require the federal government to balance its annual budget).

Lewis’s support for small business and tax changes to create jobs has a more centrist feel that her supporters emphasize with a slogan comparing her with Keating and Perry: “One is too cold, one is too hot, Maryanne is just right.’’

Friday in Barnstable, Lewis, a former state representative, said a spate of recent endorsements by some local newspapers owned by GateHouse Media has the campaign feeling “that the momentum is swinging our way.’’

On Thursday, she said, the campaign website briefly crashed “because we had so many visitors.’’

But at the heart of all three campaigns is the notion shared by independents throughout US politics: that the two-party system is broken and that voters often cast their ballots for the lesser of two evils.

“We call ourselves the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we are not brave enough to vote for what we believe in,’’ said van Nes, 25, who lists among his qualifications nine months he spent living in a cave in Granada, Spain. (“I learned how to make do with less,’’ he says.)

As a newcomer to politics, van Nes acknowledges that he has the most rudimentary of campaign organizations. His father, Nick, and some friends are pretty much it. He’s staying with his parents on Martha’s Vineyard.

Some of his ideas might seem exotic to many Americans — he wants to legalize industrial hemp, put surgeon general’s warnings on the doors of fast food restaurants, and provide tax rebates for energy conservation that increase as one’s energy use decreases. But he says the words next to his name on the ballot — he is listed as the “Bring Home Troops’’ candidate — will attract voters.

“People are going to see ‘bring home troops’ and vote. It doesn’t matter if they’ve heard of me,’’ van Nes said after appearing at a candidates forum in Plymouth. “I think I am going to do well.’’

David Filipov can be reached at