Voters will be offered a clear choice between an unabashed Democratic fan of Bernie Sanders and an outspoken conservative Republican in an Oct. 17 special election to fill the seat vacated by former state Sen. James Timilty.
Voters will be choosing between Foxboro’s Paul Feeney, a Democrat, and Republican Jacob Ventura, an Attleboro resident, after both men won their parties’ nominations Tuesday.
Ventura and Feeney easily won by wide margins.
Feeney, a former selectman who was endorsed by Sanders, beat back the more moderate Ted Philips of Sharon in the Democratic contest, 3,144 to 2,219.
Feeney is a proponent of single-payer health care and drew strong support from labor unions.
Ventura, who was backed by the Gun Owners Action League, handily defeated three more moderate opponents on the Republican side.
A strong critic of sanctuary cities, Ventura breezed by Michael Berry, Harry Brousaides, and Tim Hempton, all of Walpole. The winner ended up with 2,240 votes, compared to Berry’s 1,469, Brousaides 254, and Hempton’s 613 votes.
In both cases, the winners overcame considerable support among party officials backing their opponents.
But Ventura and Feeney also had the advantage of financial and manpower support from outside groups.
In Feeney’s case it was financial support and campaign help from labor unions. With Ventura, it was $13,000 in aid from the Marlborough Republican City Committee. Marlborough is not in the Bristol and Norfolk District, where the election was being held.
“Just amazed at how outside influences and money achieved victory on both the Republican and Democratic side,” state Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, said.
“When you review the latest (financial) reports, so little money was raised by both winning candidates within the actual district. That, coupled with a low turnout, is a real disappointment, but I look forward to a positive, issue based campaign in the general. That’s what the constituents are expecting.”
Barrows supported Berry, his former aide.
But Ventura and Feeney said it was hard work and a message that resonated with the public, not outside help, that won the day.
Ventura said his campaign knocked on 11,000 doors throughout the nine-community district. State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said he personally knocked on 1,000 doors for Ventura.
“We had a great team that worked really hard,” Ventura said.
Feeney said he found voters agreed with his willingness to fight for health care, women’s issues and workers’ rights.
“Ultimately it comes down to how effective you communicate with voters” not outside help, he said.
Feeney and Ventura will be joined in the Oct. 17 general special election by independent Joe Shortsleeve of Medfield.
A former television reporter, Shortsleeve said voters he meets are “fed up with the harsh partisan rhetoric” and are responding to his independence.
He said the district is 65 percent independent, or unenrolled, so he has a good chance of winning, despite the poor record of independent candidates in the past.
“The road to the Statehouse is littered with the dead bodies of independent candidates,” he joked.
The losers said they were disappointed, but are ready to support their party nominee.
Philips, a former aide to state Rep. Louis Kafka, D-Stoughton, said he was proud of his campaign because both he and Feeney ran positive, issue-based races.
He said the help Feeney got from unions and Our Revolution, a pro-Sanders group, was tough to overcome.
Feeney and Philips plan to have breakfast together Wednesday to unify the party.
Berry said he gave the election his full effort and can now look forward to getting married in three weeks.
Despite some hard feelings between the Berry and Ventura camps during the primary, Berry said he will be supporting his party’s nominee.
He said he won Walpole, Mansfield, and Foxboro as he planned to, but his margins of victory in those towns were not enough to overcome Ventura’s landslides in the Attleboro area.
Ventura beat Berry 781-279 in Attleboro, 299-33 in Rehoboth, 234-75 in Norton, and a stunning 321-30 in Seekonk.
Rehoboth, Norton and Seekonk are all in the district of state Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, for whom Ventura works as an aide.
Howitt said Ventura is “something new and exciting” and should do well in a conservative Senate district like the Bristol and Norfolk.
The district includes half of Attleboro, part of Sharon and all of Seekonk, Rehoboth, Norton, Mansfield, Foxboro, Walpole and Medfield.