Rep. Bill Delahunt (D)
Massachusetts 10th District
The South Shore of Massachusetts Bay, from Boston southward to Plymouth and then down Cape Cod (there is a lot of dispute about which way is up and down on the Cape), is Massachusetts’s oldest settled territory. The Pilgrims landed here at Plymouth Rock in 1620. This stony land was farmed by John Adams’s father, who was anything but the aristocrat some later members of the Adams family would have had you believe. Daniel Webster lived in the South Shore town of Marshfield, today a high-income suburb of Boston far out on the usually clogged Southeast Expressway. Joseph P. Kennedy used to summer with his young family on Nantasket Beach in Hull, before moving out of Massachusetts when the Yankees wouldn’t let them into their beach club in Cohasset in the 1920s. But the Kennedys continue to summer at their Hyannis Port compound on the Cape. Provincetown, at the tip of the Cape, is still a fishing port, one of the major gay vacation areas in the country. The islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, rich whaling ports in the early 19th century, are favored summer resorts for the liberal rich of Boston, New York, and Washington. Half the nation’s cranberry growers are clustered among the bogs along Cape Cod Bay. But the Cape is also filled with retirees who enjoy the beauty and quiet pace.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 10th Congressional District of Massachusetts follows the South Shore from Quincy (QUIN zee), with its large Asian population, to the Cape. It juts inland almost, but not quite, to Brockton and includes Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, where the glitterati have generated a “not in my backyard” fury over a proposed windmill farm in the nearby channel waters. With the loss of blue-collar jobs, business growth in the South Shore has been slower than elsewhere in the Boston area. The South Shore and the Cape were once exclusively Protestant and Yankee, but in the Massachusetts way, they have changed over the years, with Irish and Italian surnames as common as Yankee ones (this is the nation’s most heavily Irish congressional district), and the descendants of Portuguese-Azorean fishermen have fanned out into the countryside. Liberal politics, well established on the Vineyard and Nantucket, have spread inland as well. Although Republican Mitt Romney carried the area in 2002, the South Shore is generally Democratic territory.
Rep. Bill Delahunt (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: July 18, 1941, Quincy .
Education: Middlebury Col., B.A. 1963, Boston Col., J.D. 1967.
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Military career: Coast Guard, 1963; Coast Guard Reserves, 1963–71.
Elected office: Quincy City Cncl., 1971; MA House of Reps., 1972–75.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1967–75; Asst. clerk, Norfolk Superior Court, 1969–71; Norfolk Cnty. dist. atty., 1975–96.
The congressman from the 10th District is Bill Delahunt, a Democrat elected in 1996. Delahunt is a lifelong resident of Quincy, at the northern tip of the district. He graduated from Middlebury College and Boston College Law School and served in the Coast Guard. He practiced law and served on the Quincy Council. In 1972, he was elected to the state House. Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1975 appointed him district attorney of Norfolk County, a job that Delahunt held for two decades. He ran for the U.S. House in 1996, when 24-year incumbent Rep. Gerry Studds retired. He had serious primary competition from former state Rep. Philip Johnston and self-financed environmentalist Ian Bowles. The initial results showed 38% each for Delahunt and Johnston, with Johnston ahead by 266 votes. A recount declared Johnston still ahead by 175 votes.
|Bill Delahunt (D)||272,899||(99%)||($1,217,875)|
|Bill Delahunt (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (69%), 2000 (74%), 1998 (70%), 1996 (54%)
But Delahunt filed suit, and on October 4, a judge ruled that more than 900 punch-card votes in Weymouth had not been properly tabulated. Foreshadowing another election challenge four years later, the judge ordered a recount of every ballot with an indentation, dimple or other mark. Only in this district and in 14 counties in Texas had dimpled chads ever been counted as votes in the United States until the Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade County canvassing boards started counting them in November 2000. On October 10, Delahunt was declared the winner by 108 votes, even as Johnston was being hailed at a Quincy rally by Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Johnston called the result a “travesty,” and Delahunt had less than a month to campaign for the general election against conservative state House Minority Leader Edward Teague. Both ran million-dollar campaigns. Eight years earlier, Republican George H. W. Bush carried this district over native son Dukakis. But reaction here to the new Republican majority in the House was hostile, and Delahunt won 54%-42%.
Delahunt has been an active legislator with a very liberal voting record and has kept a pledge to wear Cape Cod ties in the House and hand them out to colleagues of both parties. As the father of an adopted daughter who escaped Vietnam in the 1975 Operation Babylift, he has written laws to ease international adoptions. His positions on abortion offer a window on Massachusetts’ move to the left. In 1974, as a state legislator he called the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion “a tragic decision,” but he switched to a pro-abortion rights position before running for the House.
On the Judiciary Committee, Delahunt teamed with Illinois Republican Ray LaHood on the Innocence Protection Act, which includes federal funding to the states for DNA testing of people accused of crimes. The House passed it, 393-14, and it became law in 2004. His experience with contested elections made him an enthusiast for abolishing the Electoral College.
When the immigration issue heated up in recent years, Delahunt tried to increase the number of temporary visas, partly to boost the seasonal workforce on the Cape. He also chaired an investigation of Republican claims of improper handling by the House’s presiding officer of an August 2007 vote on farm-bill benefits to illegal immigrants. Following a year-long inquiry, the panel unanimously found what Delahunt termed an “abundance of problems” with the vote and the voting system itself, but did not blame any particular member. As a member of the House Ethics Committee, Delahunt chaired the case of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who was accused by federal investigators of taking bribes.
Delahunt has generated controversy with his hands-on diplomatic efforts. He has met frequently with Venezuela president Hugo Chavez, partly with the goal of securing cheaper oil for low-income constituents. Critics accuse him of supporting a despot. Delahunt also joined several congressional delegations to visit Cuba to encourage democratic reforms. As the chairman of the International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight Subcommittee on the Foreign Affairs Committee, he sought to increase the independence of the State Department’s inspector general following charges of obstruction of sensitive investigations. He also looked into claims that detainees at the federal prison at Guantanamo were held illegally and were tortured.
Delahunt has easily won his re-election bids, with no need to count dimpled chads. On Capitol Hill, he has taken some ribbing for his fraternity-house living quarters. To save on the expense of maintaining two homes, while in Washington Delahunt shares a small townhouse with Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois, and their landlord, Rep. George Miller of California. Delahunt sleeps in the living room, as does Schumer, and the refrigerator is frequently empty.