Underdog Challenges John Kerry

BOSTON (AP) -- The tough road for Jeff Beatty to unseat U.S. Sen. John Kerry began at a press conference attended by a single TV camerawoman and as many campaign staffers as reporters.

The Republican knows he's the underdog in the November election against Kerry, the Democratic 2004 presidential nominee. Still, Beatty appeared confident Wednesday as he spoke in front of a downtown building holding Fannie Mae offices to highlight contributions Kerry took from the mortgage giant before its government takeover.

The former Delta Force officer portrayed Kerry as an elitist with a thin record of achievement for Massachusetts - similar criticisms to those leveled by Kerry's unsuccessful challenger in Tuesday's primary, attorney Ed O'Reilly.

The 30 percent of the vote that the relatively unknown O'Reilly received was seen by some as an expression of frustration with Kerry, who first took office 23 years ago.

"When a third of the Democrats in his own primary thumb their nose at their sitting senator, he's got troubles in River City," Beatty said. "You can bet that the anti-Kerry sentiment is running a lot higher than one-third in the unenrolled and in the Republican ranks."

Kerry spokeswoman Brigid O'Rourke noted that Kerry beat O'Reilly by an overwhelming margin, which she said showed voters back Kerry and his "proven track record," such as helping secure $100 million for heating costs for low-income families.

She also alluded to Beatty's loss in the 2006 congressional race against Democrat William Delahunt.

"Mr. Beatty's whopping 28 percent of the vote in his 2006 congressional election makes him sort of an expert on voter dissatisfaction," O'Rourke said.

The last tough fight Kerry had in the general election was 1996 against former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, but Beatty is working to change that by increasing his visibility.

He released a TV ad Wednesday and said he plans to air as many ads as money will allow. But he's at a major funding disadvantage, having about $48,000 cash in hand after raising about $1.5 million, compared with $7.5 million cash in hand for Kerry.

Beatty was born in New Jersey and adopted at birth. He became a member of the Army's elite Delta Force before working for the CIA, then forming a private security consulting business. He lives in Harwich.

Beatty opposes abortion rights and favors civil unions over gay marriage. He also supports the right to bear arms, school choice, stricter enforcement of immigration laws and tax cuts. He opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq but said victory was important.

Beatty doesn't see his conservative positions as a liability in a liberal state where Kerry has had little trouble winning, noting Massachusetts' long list of Republican governors.

He calls himself a middle-of-the road candidate with broad appeal, while portraying Kerry as extremely liberal and not particularly well-liked.

"When you tell people, `My name is Jeff Beatty and I'm running against John Kerry for United States Senate,' I don't get... `I'm not going to listen to you because you're Republican,'" Beatty said. "I get, `Anybody but Kerry.'"

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