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KEYES TO VICTORY

Keyes is tall, slender, and handsome, cutting a dashing figure in a dark blue suit when I met up with him at the Navigator Club in East Falmouth last weekend. He has a charming businessman's demeanor, and a deep voice with a hint of Outer Cape drawl.

He's hard to caricature as a wild-eyed, Tea Party ultra-conservative. He focuses his message on small business growth and restoring integrity to the State House, emphasizing his work as an ethics and compliance officer. A Sandwich resident, with a wife and two young children, Keyes has been active in local elected office and association leadership for the past 10 years.

And he's been running for this Senate seat, almost non-stop, for three years; he turned his attention to 2012 shortly after the 2010 loss.

Keyes claims to have knocked on 8000 doors; his campaign has hand-delivered 60,000 pieces of literature. "This is literally my fourth pair of shoes this year," he says, turning up his foot to show me the latest worn-down sole.

He has also already raised more than twice as much as the paltry $45,000 that left him outspent 10-to-1 last time. It's not a fortune, but it's enough for some mailings and radio ads in the final weeks.

The state's Republican establishment is pitching in, after taking a more tepid approach in 2010, when they underestimated his chances and were reluctant to risk infuriating the all-powerful Senate president by backing her challenger. His near-win changed that. "The support is vastly different this time," Keyes acknowledges.

He also gets to ride the get-out-the-vote coattails of Scott Brown, whose campaign is far better coordinated in this Republican-rich part of the state than gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker was in 2010.

It's still an uphill climb. His qualifications and proposals ultimately seem somewhat irrelevant, given the fact that he would be one of a tiny minority of Republicans in the Senate — while Murray gives the district extraordinary power on Beacon Hill.

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