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Markey vs. Lynch: Who Will Come Out On Top?

Friday, February 01, 2013


U.S. Representative Stephen Lynch jumped into the race to replace John Kerry in the Senate on Thursday, joining fellow Democratic Congressman Edward Markey and setting off a competitive primary within the party before the June 25th special election.

The two candidates represent nearly opposite ends of the spectrum of Bay State Democrats, with Markey a champion for progressives and Lynch a more socially conservative former union worker.

While Markey declared his candidacy over a month ago and spent the intervening days racking up endorsements from numerous members of the Democratic establishment, Lynch held out until Kerry's move to secretary of state was official and is angling to use Markey's establishment support to his own advantage.

During a campaign stop in Worcester on Thursday, Lynch criticized that very establishment for trying to clear the field of candidates, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee throwing its support behind Markey before it was clear whether or not other candidates for Kerry's seat would emerge.

When asked about critics who have said that he would not "fit in" in the Senate, Lynch said that he saw it as a positive, not a negative.

"There's a certain insulation that they have in Washington," he said, noting a gap between what goes on in D.C. and what happens on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester.

"We need to shake things up," Lynch said, adding that he was not sure if that would happen with Markey, who is currently the longest-serving Congressman in Mass., having first taken office in 1976.

Meanwhile Markey, welcomed Lynch's entrance into the race.

“I urge him to join me in committing to the people’s pledge to prevent outside special interests groups from injecting millions into this campaign. Time and again, I've stood up to big oil, Wall Street and the gun lobby and this race should be about the people of Massachusetts having a voice in the Senate, not the special interests," Markey said in a statement.

"We need a Senator who continues to stand up for the progressive values that John Kerry and Massachusetts believe in and who's focused on creating the jobs our economy needs. That's why I'm running for Senate.”

Insider vs. Ironworker

Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said Markey enjoys stronger institutional support in the Democratic establishment than Lynch, which gives him a short-term edge.

"But what Markey has to avoid is being characterized by his opponent as a status-quo Democrat as opposed to a change agent," he said. "Candidates often try to turn seeming advantages through endorsements into a sign that voters shouldn't let leaders dictate the primary. This may turn out to be one of the major distinguishing qualities between the two men."

Clark University professor of Political Science Robert Boatright said that Markey and Lynch have two different bases, the former enjoying support from moe upscale liberals and the latter holding strong with unions. However, Lynch opposed President Obama's Affordable Care Act, and his more socially conservative views mean his union support is not universal.

"Although Democratic leaders had tried to ward off a primary, I think a case can be made that it would be good for the party – it would raise the visibility of the eventual nominee and draw attention to the Democratic field (and away from Brown if he runs)," Boatright said. "Although Markey is polling better against Brown than Lynch, I think that is solely a function of name recognition; I think in many ways Lynch would match up better."

Scott Brown's Impact

Several recent surveys from Public Policy Polling and the MassINC Polling Group have shown former Republican Senator Scott Brown ahead of or neck-and-neck with Markey and in front of Lynch as well. But both Boatright and Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute and associate professor of Government at American University, said the poll results don't have any real significance in this early stage of the race.

"I think it’s far too soon to project a winner or bet on candidates, either at the primary or general election stage of the process," Lawless said. "Until we know the full slate of candidates, it is impossible to determine the most salient issues on which voters can rely to differentiate the candidates."

Brown still has yet to announce his intentions, and some political observers have speculated that he may hold out for the 2014 Governor's race rather than face a special election in 2013 and another next year for a full six-year term in the Senate.

"One thing that he has going for him is instant name recognition," said Srinivasan Sitaraman, a professor of Political Science at Clark University. "I still see a lot of Scott Brown lawn signs in and around Worcester County and this shows continued support for him in Central Mass. So he could afford to sit out a bit longer and let his opponents sweat a little bit more. Who knows, he might be able to squeak in with a tough fight."

The name recognition advantage Brown currently holds over Lynch and Markey could quickly slip away once the Democratic campaigns kick into high-gear, said Lawless.

"As to whether other candidates enter, I think in part it depends on what Brown does – if he does not get in, Democrats may well see less urgency in coming together, and another aspiring candidate – Alan Khazei, for instance – might decide to run," Boatright said, adding that once a primary contest becomes clear with Lynch's announcement, numbers will matter less, and more Dems may consider throwing their hats in as well.


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