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U. Massachusetts Alumnus Challenges Kerry For Seat

This story was written by S.p. Sullivan, Massachusetts Daily Collegian
In a brightly-colored, two-story house set back behind a long driveway on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, a University of Massachusetts alumnus and his campaign staff are planning to unseat Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Edward J. O'Reilly, a criminal defense attorney and third generation firefighter, opened his western Massachusetts campaign office at 178A North Pleasant Street in downtown Amherst this past Friday, Oct. 19.

"I think that we need to have a western Massachusetts presence," said O'Reilly, citing the concentrated population of progressive Democrats in the Amherst area as a selling point for setting up shop on North Pleasant Street.

He was also drawn by the location's proximity to the University and he said, "I thought that it would be a good idea to involve students."

Although the response from UMass students was limited at the opening of the western Massachusetts campaign office, the O'Reilly campaign hopes that the location's convenience will encourage University students to become active before the 2008 election season.

"I've enjoyed the process of watching him bud as a politician," said Jason Scheer, a UMass senior and self-described independent who works as an intern with Adrian d'Errico, a local filmmaker spearheading media production for the campaign. "I think a lot of people should have the experience of watching a campaign."

O'Reilly is described by his campaign staffers as the "grassroots" alternative to third-term incumbent and former presidential candidate Kerry - as a political outsider willing to "stand up and fight for progressive Democratic values."

O'Reilly's previous political experience is limited to single terms on the Gloucester City Council and School Committee, but he is undaunted in his run against the high profile Kerry. He thinks his position as a grassroots outsider gives him an edge with voters disenfranchised with Kerry's position on progressive issues.

"[Kerry is] just another man who didn't stand up for what I believe he should've stood up for. He didn't stand up for Democratic principles; he voted for the war authorization in Iraq," said O'Reilly.

"He didn't really believe his vote was correct," he said. "But at that time the polls indicated that if he wanted to be the nominee for president for the Democratic Party that he would have to vote for war authorization."

"He is reactive rather than being proactive," said O'Reilly of Senator Kerry's policies. O'Reilly sees the ongoing war with Iraq as a major issue in the upcoming election, as well as the Senate approval of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which he describes as "[paving] the way for war against Iran." His campaign staff describes his stance on these issues as, "get out of Iraq, stay out of Iran."

Although his campaign has not raised millions to match the fundraising of the incumbent Kerry, $7.2 million dollars of which O'Reilly claims was left over from the Senator's presidential campaign efforts, it is not his main concern.

"I'm focused on people, not fundraising," he said.

When reached for comment, Vincent Morris, a spokesperson for Senator Kerry, said O'Reilly was "mistaken in his claim about funds raised in the last election."

Born in Boston, O'Reilly is the son of former Watertown Fire Chief Robert C. O'Reilly. A third generation fire fighter, O'Reilly served as a paid call fire fighter for the town of Amherst while attending the University. He graduated in 1975, earning a B.A. in Legal Studies, Magna Cum Laude.

After graduating, O'Reilly began work as an officer in the Department of Corrections at Norfolk State Prison, and at one time, worked as a commercial lobsterman. He has steppd back from his current position as an attorney to focus full-time on his campaign.

The Amherst office of Ed O'Reilly for Senate '08 serves as the western Massachusetts base of operations, with another office located in Gloucester.

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© 2007 Massachusetts Daily Collegian via U-WIRE