Lawn’s regional appeal powered him to victory

The Boston Globe
April 17, 2011 Sunday

BYLINE: By Megan McKee, Globe Correspondent

SECTION: REGIONAL; West; Pg. 5

LENGTH: 668 words

Watertown councilor John Lawn said last week he knew he was going to pull off a win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the 10th Middlesex House seat, which includes parts of Newton, Waltham, and Watertown.

“I knew I had a lot of support, and it was a matter of turning it out,” Lawn said. “I knew going into that race that geographically the landscape was set against me.” But, he added, “My Waltham ties are real.”

He now faces Jim Dixon, the only Republican in the race. Dixon said he’s been out campaigning, has a lot of support, and is aiming to win the May 10 special election.

“I’ve got boots on the ground. I’ve got people dropping literature,” said Dixon.

Lawn’s victory over the geographic issue has to do with the layout for the 10th Middlesex seat, which weighs against Watertown candidates. Only 7 percent of 10th Middlesex’s precincts are in Watertown, while 70 percent are in Waltham and 23 percent are in Newton.

This means that when locals from Watertown – no matter how influential they are locally – go up against opponents from Waltham and Newton, chances are they’ll lose simply because they’re known by a smaller population.

Not so for Lawn, as shown by Tuesday’s results. He won thanks to a strong showing in both Watertown and Waltham. He received 412 votes in Watertown and 361 in Waltham. In Newton, he had 103 votes.

Meanwhile, runner-up Gary Marchese dominated Waltham, where he has been a city councilor for 15 years, with 659 votes, but received only 33 in Watertown and 46 in Newton.

Hometown loyalty accounted for the majority of Newton Alderman Allan “Jay” Ciccone Jr.’s votes, too. He received 389 from Newton while getting 54 in Waltham and 17 in Watertown.

Waltham’s Sean Durkee, an Iraq War veteran and political newcomer, earned 272 Waltham votes, fewer than Lawn. Durkee received 17 votes from Watertown voters and 38 from Newton.

Lawn said his Waltham ties date back to high school, when he attended Watertown’s St. Patrick’s High School with many Waltham kids.

He said his children are heavily involved in Waltham sports, and they’re regular visitors to the Waltham YMCA. He has several nieces and nephews who live in Waltham.

Still, when he told his friends that he was making a run for state representative, they told him not to bother.

“I had good friends say, `I don’t want you to waste your time and money,’ ” said Lawn.

Lawn will now face Dixon, a commercial airline pilot who lost to Democrat Peter Koutoujian for the seat in November.

Now that Koutoujian has taken over as sheriff for Middlesex County, Dixon has another chance.

Dixon, an Oklahoma native who moved from Texas to Waltham 10 years ago, said he has an actual campaign this year. He said that when he ran against Koutoujian last year, he relied on door-knocking and cable access screen time to get his message out. This year, he’s got support from the Greater Waltham Tea Party and the Newton and Watertown local Republican committees, he said.

Dixon said the state needs more Republican voices in the Legislature.

“Massachusetts can do better,” he said.

Lawn is taking him seriously. He was already working the phones the day after the primary.

He’ll have some help from the three Democratic primary candidates who didn’t make the cut. Lawn said they all called on election night and pledged their support in his campaign against Dixon.

Lawn, who owns a Watertown real estate office, will be campaigning while serving as a town councilor during this year’s tumultuous budget season in Watertown.

At the same time, he’ll be helping his wife, who is a nurse, care for their five children.

Although Lawn took his children to Chuck E. Cheese on Wednesday to celebrate his win, he is preparing for a long month ahead.

“I am going to work just as hard as I did in the primary. Jim Dixon has run before. He’s had the ability to work and organize and raise money while we were fighting it out in the primary,” said Lawn. “I’m not taking this lightly at all.”

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com

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