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Fourth in Fifth: Belmont's Brownsberger Captures Hometown But Not Congressional Race

Positions on issues, shortened campaign timeframe hampered Belmont residents race for Congress.

First, the very young campaign staff walked slowly into an avalanche of cheers from about 70 supporters in the basement of the VFW Hall on Trapelo Road yesterday night, Tuesday, Oct. 15, around 9:30 p.m. 

Then came the candidate. State Sen. Will Brownsberger, still smiling and walking tall after a full day of campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for the 5th Massachusetts Congressional district seat.

Once again, the cheers, the salutations – "We love you, Will" – and outbursts of good will lasted for more than a minute until the Gilbert Road residents held up his hands in an effort to quiet the well wishers.

And with his characteristic straightforward approach, Brownsberger made official what many, if not all the supporters, already knew.

"In case you can't tell by the long faces from the young people up over here, we didn't win," said Brownsberger. "And that's the way the cookie crumbles."

And with that, a campaign that unofficially began in the rawness of the late spring ended with the fall foliage as Brownberger's run for Congress came to an end.

"We ran the campaign we intended to run ... and it wasn't the time for this campaign. It didn't work out but live and learn and hopefully we made a contribution to the conversation  ... to have an honest conversation about the issues and the tough issues and we did that," he said to the applause of his staff and supporters.

Speaking to Belmont Patch, Brownsberger said his campaigned was hampered by a number of logistic issues: he started with a much smaller base of his current senate district then his three legislative colleagues – Brownsberger's Boston constituencies including voter-rich Brighton are not in the fifth district – and "I have a record that isn't exactly what everyone is expecting to hear and that required some explaining."

Several of his positions – Brownsberger's support of pension reform, a willingness to listen to proposed changes to how social security and Medicare benefits are calculated, not condemning the Supreme Courts "People's United" money in politics decision, not asking to halt the Keystone Pipeline and other issues – gave those who supported his progressive agenda and record an opportunity to look to other, more mainstream or activist candidates, said those in attendance last night.

In addition, Brownsberger refused to accept Political Action Committee funding – which the other candidates readily took – which caused him to forego video advertising until the final week of the race.

Rather then the shortened, six week special election time frame, "I think if I had a little more time in the race, things may have turned out differently if I could argue the case before the voters," Brownsberger told Belmont Patch.

In raw numbers, Brownsberger votes placed him in fourth in the main field of five Democrat challengers seeking to fill the seat once held by long-time US Rep. Ed Markey who left the House to move over to the Senate side of the Capitol when he won election to replace now Secretary of State John Kerry.

Brownsberger garnered 10,142 votes, less than 50 percent of the vote of his state senate colleague, Katherine Clark, who with the backing of national women's groups, out-of-state money and being well-known in and around her senate district of Melrose and Stoneham, won the special primary with 21,959 votes, pulling away from Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian who ended the night with 15,290. 

Finishing with 143 votes more than Brownsberger was progressive favorite State Rep. Carl Sciortino with 11,185 as State Sen. Karen Splika took in 9,057 votes.

Nearly a third of Brownsberger's tally came from his hometown. A third of Belmont voters cast ballots Tuesday – a good number for a special election according to Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman – with Brownsberger garnering two-thirds of that total, 3,586 votes.

Koutoujian received 900 with Clark coming in third with 565. Sciortino got 316 and Splika 57.

But Brownsberger could not hold onto neighboring Arlington – he lost that to Clark by 600 votes – or Watertown in his senate district which went to Koutoujian by 300 votes.

By late evening, Brownsberger admitted that he would finish in "the second tier" behind Clark after the numbers started trickling in at 8:15 p.m. from town halls across the district.

Before his supporters, Brownsberger thanked his young staff "who left nothing on the table and put their hearts completely in this campaign and gave it everything they had, every ounce of creativity, every ounce of energy and every ounce of emotional strength. They've done a fabulous job which I am honored to have been associated with each and every one of them." 

At the end of the night, Brownsberger – while greeting people outside in the parking lot as they left the hall – told Belmont Patch that his future is set.

"I love being state senator for my district and I have no plans to change that," he said.

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