The underdog

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  August 13, 2008

Obama's Coattails?
The theory in her favor is simple: bland, vanilla Angus McQuilken twice came within a hairsbreadth of beating Brown, so a good candidate with a compelling story just needs to squeak out a few extra votes. Plus, the turnout for the presidential election should favor Democrats, who are more enthused about Obama than Republicans are about McCain.

“This election reminds me a lot of 1992,” says McQuilken, referring to the year Cheryl Jacques — another perfect reflection of the district’s northern personality — pulled an upset to win that seat over ultraconservative David Locke, a State Senate minority leader from the southern communities who had been in office 32 years. Bill Clinton topped the ballot that year. “It made a big difference in turnout,” McQuilken says.

This overlooks the fact that both of McQuilken’s losses to Brown occurred in equally advantageous circumstances: the same 2004 elections when Democratic voters came to vote for John Kerry, first in the presidential primary and then the general election.

Brown is easy to poke fun at — even some Republicans in the State House call him a lightweight, and worse — but tough to beat. He’s been running, and winning, for 16 years, as assessor, selectman, state representative, and state senator. He has a terrific field organization; he is as good a fundraiser as the GOP has in the state these days; and he and his staff know the district by heart.

And while Orozco and other Democrats say he has been ineffective, it usually takes a stronger argument than that to oust an incumbent. As one Democratic observer puts it: “Scott hasn’t done anything to piss off enough voters to lose.”

I don’t see him losing,” says one Republican insider. “It’s not going to happen.”

Yet, an increasing number on the left believe it can. “That district is becoming ever-so-slightly more progressive over time,” says MassAlliance executive director Georgia Hollister Isman. The district favored Deval Patrick in 2006, for instance, after voting strongly for Republican Mitt Romney in 2002.

Brown also lost a little of his luster this past year, in a roundly condemned performance at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham.
Brown had been invited to address students about gay marriage, which he has steadfastly opposed. The senator used the opportunity to berate — by name — students who had written nasty things about him on Facebook. The performance included a recitation of profanity-laden entries.

More recently, a mini-controversy has emerged concerning Brown and the owner of the Plainridge horse-race course located in his district — whose interests Brown has aggressively advocated, particularly during debates this spring about expanded gambling in the state. Brown disclosed just a few weeks ago that his teenage daughter co-owns a race horse with the track’s owner.

Long odds
Orozco is clearly not one to be deterred by long odds: at five-foot-two she was Florida’s high-school volleyball player of the year and earned a sports scholarship that made college possible.

More grimly, she went through multiple surgeries and radiation to survive breast cancer — and then helped her mother recover from the same disease just a year later.

That experience 10 years ago pushed Orozco into specializing in therapy for patients going through cancer and other serious medical challenges. The experiences of her patients, in turn, got her involved in the need to reform health-care delivery and coverage.

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