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Lowell Sun - Paging Jim Ogonowski.

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PAGING JIM Ogonowski.

One of two Republicans running to replace Meehan in Congress, Ogonowski has been a no-show thus far at the candidate debates. And it's not like there has been a shortage of invitations. His absence has left his Republican opponent Tom Tierney, of Framingham, with the mike all to himself.

Tierney was left to debate himself last Thursday at a forum sponsored by the AARP. And again on Friday, Tierney sat next to an empty chair at the Health-care Debate for all candidates in Westford at the Westford Regency.

"I've met all the Democrats in the race, and they're all wonderful people," Tierney said. "But I have yet to meet him, (Jim Ogonowski).

"I've been asked if I'm insulted that he doesn't show up at these events. I'm not, but the people really being insulted is the Constituents of 5th District and the Senior Citizen membership of AARP. You should be able to hear from him how he feels about issues like health care."

Ogonowski has been campaigning hard. He has just chosen not to make these debates a big part of his strategy.

Don't expect to see him go head-to-head with Tierney until Aug. 15, when he plans to appear at a debate sponsored by Channel 5 WCVB.

"We've been focusing on the grass-roots part of the campaign," said Ogonowski spokesman Barney Keller, son of WBZ-TV political reporter Jon Keller.

Ogonowski is confirmed for four debates, including two more sponsored by the League of Women Voters and a final debate Aug. 27 sponsored by UMass Lowell and The Sun.

OGONOWSKI HAS been knocking on all sorts of doors. But this week he sought support in the biggest house, the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican candidate addressed GOP lawmakers in a closed caucus meeting in Washington after attending an "issue class" with the Republican National Committee.

"I got introduced to the entire caucus," Ogonowski said. "The room looked full. In fact, based on the look of the room, you would have thought we had a Republican majority in Washington."

Ogonowski told lawmakers about himself and said he'll win the Oct. 16 special election. He received a standing ovation, according to a campaign aide.

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