Ed O'Reilly's Uphill Road
While the presidential campaign is monopolizing public attention, attorney Ed O'Reilly '75 (legal studies) is stumping his way across Massachusetts in an effort to unseat four-term U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry. O'Reilly recently opened his western Massachusetts campaign headquarters in Amherst and says he's ready for the challenge of trying to beat an entrenched incumbent. He's taking the grassroots approach.
"I want to talk to as many people as I can," he said recently during preparation for a video shoot at his Amherst office. Almost as if to demonstrate, he got up after the filming and made his way outside to chat with a group seeking signatures for a recycling pledge.
Cracking jokes and smiling readily, he seems to enjoy listening to constituents. The son and grandson of firefighters, O'Reilly, who gave up his job as a lawyer to focus on his campaign, has also worked in a factory and as a volunteer firefighter. He frequently cites his working-class background when talking to voters. Pushing his position that the party needs change, O'Reilly has been crisscrossing Massachusetts, meeting with local Democratic committees to gather support for the state Democratic convention June 7 in Lowell. To appear on the primary ballot in the fall, O'Reilly will need the backing of 15 percent of the local committees.
O'Reilly, who likes to say "I was for Kerry before I was against him," donated to the senator's 2004 presidential campaign, but became disillusioned with Kerry's stand on the issues. "I firmly believe in a single-payer health care system. I firmly believe that we need to get our troops back from Iraq immediately....I am in line with that platform, Kerry is not," O'Reilly said in an interview prepared by his staff for his website.
Running for the Senate on a limited budget means that a lot of the canvassing and grunt work of the campaign must be done by O'Reilly himself. He puts in long hours making appearances wherever he can, participating in radio interviews, seeking endorsements from local Democratic committees, responding to emails at 3 in the morning.
But O'Reilly of Gloucester, a divorced father of one daughter, says he is excited about the support he has received and is increasingly optimistic about his chances of beating John Kerry. "The people that sometimes will say it's an uphill battle will follow with 'well I don't really like Kerry though,' " he said. "The vision that Bobby Kennedy had for this country is the vision that I have ... it's a vision of unity, it's a vision of equality, it's a vision of social and economic justice....Those are my ideals."
February 11, 2008
Adapted from a longer story by Michael Phillis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 1/30/08.
For more on Ed O'Reilly, visit his website.