Daniel Botelho calls himself a conservative. He calls himself a member of the tea party. But there’s one thing he won’t call himself — a Republican.
The 34-year-old financial analyst from Fall River is running as an independent against U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Bourne, and Republican nominee Christopher Sheldon of Plymouth in the newly-configured 9th Congressional District.
Because there is no primary for independents, Botelho’s candidacy has flown under the radar. He’s hoping to change that in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
Botelho showed up at a Republican event in Plymouth Sept. 13 and referred to himself as “the spoiler” when an official asked if there were any other candidates in attendance at the rally for state Senate candidate Thomas Keyes.
During an interview at Coffee Obsession in Falmouth last week, Botelho said his spoiler comment was a reaction to the cold reception he received from Republicans at the event, many of whom used that term to describe him.
“Here’s the thing, and I’m not trying to be cocky by any means, but when you’re the better candidate are you really the spoiler?” he said.
Sheldon, 34, said he isn’t worried about Botelho becoming a spoiler.
“The party has rallied behind me,” Sheldon said, noting there was a unity breakfast Sept. 15.
But there is some evidence that Sheldon could have competition from Botelho among conservative voters. Both Botelho and Sheldon, who squeaked by Adam Chaprales in the primary, are members of the Plymouth Rock/Cape Cod & the Islands Tea Party, which is giving some members pause on which of the candidates to support.
“Many have asked me what to do. I won’t tell you … nor can I tell you what to do,” Michael Petrell said in an email to members launching a forum on the topic.
“I think the best thing to do is to try to see more of these two guys, come at them with deep specifics, and then make your own decision.”
Petrell did not return calls seeking further comment.
Sheldon said Botelho’s support within the tea party comes from his stance on eliminating income taxes and going to a so-called fair tax — a consumption-based tax Sheldon said has “zero chance of ever passing.”
Sheldon worked on the campaign of Maryanne Lewis, who ran as an independent against Keating and Republican Jeffrey Perry in the 2010 election.
Lewis, one of three independents on the ballot, raised the most money among the three and had solid name recognition from her time in the House leadership on Beacon Hill, but still couldn’t muster more than 6 percent of the vote. All together, Lewis and two other candidates captured 11 percent of the vote.
“Dan has no chance of getting 11 percent in this race. I know what it took to get 11 percent in 2010 and he doesn’t have those resources available to him,” Sheldon said. “There are substantial head winds for any candidate to run as an independent.”
Botelho said he knows he faces an uphill battle.
“All three of us are going after the same voters. No candidate would win just with their party votes. Both parties are courting the unenrolled voter, which is the same thing I’m doing,” he said.
“That being said, we would be better off with two people running, so Sheldon needs to consider what’s best at that point because he’s not going to win Fall River and New Bedford. There’s not enough Republicans in those two cities to make a dent.”
Sheldon scoffed at the notion that he should step aside or that he needs to win Fall River and New Bedford to win the race. U.S. Sen. Scott Brown did well on the Cape and Islands and on the South Shore in 2010 and Sheldon expects he’ll do well again in 2012. He hopes to ride those coattails into office.
“We have a united front and I’m excited about my chances,” Sheldon said.