Last week, a SurveyUSA/WBZ poll out of Boston caused a minor earthquake in the Massachusetts political universe. The race to replace liberal Congressman Marty Meehan was supposed to be a sleepy affair leading to a walk-in-the-park victory for Democrat Niki Tsongas, the well-known wife of the late Senator Paul Tsongas. So it came as quite a surprise when the poll showed Republican Jim Ogonowski, a farmer and veteran from the Merrimack Valley, within 10 points of Tsongas. Tsongas polled just 51 percent to Ogonowski's 41 percent.
In any political environment, a win by Ogonowski on October 16th would be considered a stunning upset. Massachusetts has not sent a Republican to Congress in more than a decade. And though the district is relatively conservative by Massachusetts standards (if the Bay State ever sends a Republican to Washington, it will happen first here), Ogonowski had not been given much of a shot by the political classes. With the fallout from Iraq and 2006 continuing to take its toll on Washington Republicans, a win or close call by Ogonowski would signal that the political winds are gusting against the 11% approval Democrat-controlled Congress.
Watch Ogonowki's first TV ad, and you'll see that this is no fluke. The man has as compelling a biography as any I've seen in politics: a 28-year veteran of the Air Force and Air National Guard, a family that goes back in the district over 100 years, and a connection to September 11th that first brought him to the attention of Massachusetts and the nation.
On that day, Jim's brother John Ogonowski was the pilot of hijacked American Airlines Flight 11. Jim Ogonowski would speak on national television that afternoon. After the tragedy, Ogonowski took over his brother's family farm, which he runs to this day. Today, Ogonowski says he's running in large part because of what changed that day.