I met Ed O'Reilly last summer at the annual political gathering sponsored by Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe and I wondered just how determined this guy was in his effort to unseat John Kerry. Well, months later O'Reilly hasn't seemed to slow up in his quest to become the Democratic candidate for Senate from Massachusetts.
I have to admit a certain prejudice: John Kerry has stuck me for years as an absentee senator. I voted for him for president because i couldn't vote for Bush, but I didn't support him. Out here in the hinterlands we don't see him very much. As a journalist I receive press releases from Kennedy and our congressman on a regular basis but nothing from Kerry. I hope to bring this issue of access to the public up if I get the chance to see him. Perhaps I will since it will be an election year.
Ed O'Reilly readily acknowledged incumbent Sen. John Kerry has an advantage over him in his effort to unseat Kerry in a primary battle and become the Democratic candidate and that is Kerry's considerable war chest.
"That's the only hurdle," O'Reilly said in an interview last week at Reminder Publications.
He said he has been receiving "outrageous" support as he has been visiting Democratic Party functions around the state.
For O'Reilly to appear on a primary ballot he must have the support of 15 percent of the delegates who attend the party's convention in Lowell on June 7 and he must gather 10,000 signatures by May 6. He feels confident that he will have the delegates he needs and his campaign has hired a signature-gathering firm to assist his volunteers to meeting the May 6 deadline.
The primary, if O'Reilly is successful, would be conducted on Sept. 16.
O'Reilly is a long-time criminal defense trial attorney who is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the New England School of Law. He has also worked as a firefighter, a corrections officer and counselor and as a commercial lobsterman. In politics, O'Reilly has served on the Gloucester City Council and School Committee.
Kerry is out of touch with people in Massachusetts, O'Reilly charged, and has an inability to lead. O'Reilly contended that Kerry has not accomplished much in over two decades in the Senate and has often been on both sides of an issue in the name of political expediency.
"He doesn't have a core set of principles, " he said of Kerry.
He noted a recent campaign kick-off for Kerry's re-election required a $2,300 contribution for a private meeting with Kerry.
"Access equals influence," O'Reilly said. "John Kerry really lives in that world. He visits the world where real people live, visits it every six years."
O'Reilly said that what motivated him to challenge Kerry was the senator's vote to support the initial entry into Iraq. O'Reilly accused Kerry of casting the vote as part of the senator's political ambitions.
"He's a great windsurfer, going downwind," O'Reilly said. "Anyone can go downwind."
If elected, O'Reilly would work toward the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. He believes there should be an international focus on Afghanistan.
He supports Congressman John Conyer's bill, the National Health Insurance Act, which would expand Medicare and create a national non-profit health insurance program.
Energy independence is also a large part of O'Reilly's platform. He would work to create a program that would use the model of municipally-owned electric companies to develop local control over renewable energy production.
He is also looking to close tax loopholes used by hedge funds managers. The money that could be recovered is in the billions, he said, and could fund necessary programs. O'Reilly said that a vote to close the loopholes was never brought to floor of the Senate and added lobbyists for hedge fund managers spend $6 million lobbying Congress to maintain the current status. The reason for a lack of a vote from Senate Majority leader Harry Reid was a lack of time.
"That's a smokescreen," O'Reilly said.
He would like to see the legislative branch of government be proactive rather than reactive and said his campaign is not only against Kerry but also against "all political institutions."
Noting another difference, O'Reilly said, "I'm a worker. He's not a worker."
O'Reilly will be meeting with voters at Romito & Sons at 21 North Main St. in East Longmeadow at 6:30 p.m. on April 21.
For additional information, log onto www.edoreilly.com.
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs