FOXBORO — All through the special election campaign for state Senate, supporters of Democrat Paul Feeney urged him to match the negative campaign that was being thrown against him.
Outside groups sponsored fake robo calls, posted mocking ads on the Internet, and mailed out fliers of questionable accuracy.
But, Feeney steadfastly refused to respond, saying he wanted to stay positive and campaign on issues such as health care.
“It wasn’t a political decision for me,” Feeney said of staying positive, “it’s who I am. I put my faith in the voters.”
Tuesday he was rewarded for his stance as voters elected him to the state Senate.
He was selected to replace James Timilty, who resigned from the Senate to become Norfolk County treasurer.
Feeney, a former Foxboro selectman, got 6,982 votes, or 47 percent. Republican Jacob Ventura received 6,405, or 43 percent. Independent Joe Shortsleeve of Medfield won 1,357 votes, or 9 percent.
Gus Bickford, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he believes some of the nastier tactics by outside groups backfired on Ventura.
“There was a rebellion against negative campaigning,” he said.
He also said in a special election you want to encourage voters to turn out with a positive message rather than depress the vote by going negative.
Feeney said some of the attacks were tough to take. There were pieces comparing him to a rotten apples and monkeys eating money.
Sunday there was a robo call during the Patriots game pretending to be from Feeney, which was actually from a Republican group.
Paul Jacques, an Attleboro firefighter and Feeney friend, said he wasn’t surprised Feeney was rewarded for staying positive.
“Justice prevailed,” he said.
Ventura, who moved to Attleboro in June, took an upbeat view of the results.
The 30-year-old first time candidate told a large gathering of supporters at the Mansfield Holiday Inn that his campaign finished second best in a close race.
“We came up just a little short in a very valiant effort,” Ventura said, adding he didn’t prepare a concession speech because he had expected to win.
Ventura thanked a gathering of supporters present at the hotel that included most of the area’s state legislators and Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Bruce Tarr.
Running as an independent, former television newsman Shortsleeve had a difficult time competing with the resources the political parties supported their candidates with.
An unabashed progressive, Feeney’s victory means the Bristol and Norfolk District goes from having the most conservative Democrat representing it in the Senate in Timilty, to having one of the liberal in Feeney.
He pledged to work for higher wages, fair taxes, equal pay for women, fair housing, better public education and Medicare for all, which is sometimes called single-payer health care.
Shortsleeve and Ventura bashed Feeney for his health care position throughout the campaign, but he never waffled.
An electrical worker who emphasized his blue-collar roots, Feeney said he would pursue an progressive agenda, but will be willing to listen and cooperate with anyone with good ideas.
Addressing about 200 supporters at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Foxboro, Feeney created them with the victory.
“You own this night,” he told the crowd.
Later he said he believes he has the biggest political organization the area has ever seen.
With lots of support from labor unions, he said there were 300 people working for him just on Tuesday. Many others donated time throughout the campaign, he said.
“I am blown away, blown away by the hundreds of volunteers,” he said.
With that kind of manpower, the campaign was able to call every voter it identified as a likely supporter in a key town twice on election day, and probably three times over the weekend, he said.
He said his strategy was to win his hometown of Foxboro, do well in swing towns like Walpole and Mansfield, and run up a large majority in Sharon, one of the most Democrat towns in the state.
That is exactly what happened.
Sharon went his way overwhelming. He got 709 votes to Ventura’s 190, and Shortsleeve’s 51.
He also carried Mansfield, Norton, Norton and Attleboro.
Ventura did extremely well in Seekonk and Rehoboth, kept it fairly close in other towns, but was overwhelmed in Sharon.
An aide to state Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, Ventura did not address his immediate future, but he has a law degree and political connections.
Feeney’s future is clear.
He said he will likely be sworn into office next week, but then he has to run for re-election in November of 2018.
He joked to supporters that they should pick up his lawn signs on their ride home and take good care of those signs.
“We’re going to need them again real soon.”