Republican in Special Says He’ll Defy the Odds

Posted May 10, 2007 at 10:14am

At least five Democrats are vying for the nomination in the Sept. 4 primary for the special election to replace Rep. Marty Meehan (D), who is resigning in July to become chancellor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Yet Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Ogonowski appears to have the Republican field to himself — which is not really a shock in a district that has given the past two Democratic presidential nominees 57 percent of the vote.

But Ogonowski said it did not start that way.

Ogonowski, who is retiring May 31 after spending 28 years in the military, said two other Republicans stepped aside when he declared his candidacy April 24. The candidate was making the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week.

“My sense of duty is now calling me to serve in Washington,” the first-time candidate said.

Ogonowski said he will focus on three issues: national security — his brother was piloting American Airlines Flight 11 when terrorists seized control of the plane and slammed it into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001; energy — he wants a national policy that invests in alternative sources; and taxes — he wants Congress to simplify the system.

Ogonowski also is a hay farmer and helps his brother’s widow till her fields as well. The family has been farming in the Lowell-based district for 100 years.

Ogonowski said his effort is no fool’s errand.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 5th but at 54 percent, independents make up the bulk of the electorate. Ogonowski also points out that the 5th district favored former GOP Govs. Mitt Romney and William Weld in recent elections.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who was elected in 2006, won less than 51 percent there, despite November’s Democratic wave.

“It’s a great opportunity for a Republican,” Ogonowski insisted.

Patrick has not set a date for the general election yet.

Niki Tsongas, widow of the late-Sen. Paul Tsongas (D), and former Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue seem to be leading the Democratic pack at this early stage.
— Nicole Duran