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Mathew Helman: Stephen Lynch’s Convictions Wilt in Democratic Primary

Monday, February 25, 2013


Mathew Helman, Guest MINDSETTER™

Stephen Lynch has long been the most conservative member of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation. As Lynch himself crassly put it, “Calling me the least liberal member from Massachusetts is like calling me the slowest Kenyan in the Boston Marathon.”

But, whether you agree with Lynch’s conservative politics or oppose them, at least we used to know where he stood. That is, until he entered the Democratic primary in the upcoming special election for U.S. Senate.

Lynch has long been an anti-choice/pro-life legislator. He has voted for restrictions on reproductive rights. He even opposed the creation of “buffer zones” around the entrance of medical clinics, which would allow women who enter the clinics to have an amount of safe space between themselves and protestors who might yell at or otherwise harass them as they enter. He has enjoyed the support of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, our state’s most prominent anti-choice organization. As recently as 2006, Lynch received a 0% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

There has been no ambiguity. Stephen Lynch is anti-choice. He has even called himself “pro-life” on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Whether you share Lynch’s opposition to reproductive rights or disagree with him, you always knew where he stood.

And then the Democratic primary happened.

On Thursday, January 31 of this year, the day Lynch announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, the Boston Globe reported that Lynch said he would “absolutely” vote to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominees who oppose abortion rights. Sticking to his long-held conservative principles, Lynch noted that choice was not a “litmus test” issue for him when it came to selecting Supreme Court nominees.

Over the following weekend, someone must have reminded Lynch that the electorate in a statewide Democratic primary is far less conservative on social issues than he is because, on Monday, just four days later, he took back his “litmus test” statement with the excuse that he “misheard the question.”

Stephen Lynch knows that his conservative politics are out of step with most Massachusetts voters, and certainly the bulk of Democratic primary voters. So he has to find ways of moving back to the political center while avoiding charges of flip-flopping – even if it means “mishearing” the occasional question. Unfortunately for Lynch, there are simply too many issues on which he is too far to the right of Massachusetts.

Remember George W. Bush’s War in Iraq that he started on false pretenses and non-existent weapons of mass destruction? Long after most Democrats were calling for an end to the Iraq War, Lynch was voting to continue it.

Do you recall the Patriot Act and its intrusions into law-abiding citizens’ private lives? Long after most Democrats were calling for the expiration of the Patriot Act, Lynch was voting to re-authorize it.

Although Lynch currently claims to support President Obama’s recent gun safety proposals in the wake of the horrific massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Lynch previously opposed efforts to curb gun violence. For instance, as a state senator, Lynch voted against an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts, callously dismissing the measure as “feel-good legislation.”

We know that while most Democrats were working productively with the Obama Administration to support, strengthen, and improve health care reform for all Americans, Lynch stood as a No vote and an obstacle to positive reforms. If Stephen Lynch got his way and health care reform failed, “pre-existing conditions” would still be in our health care lexicon.

It is approaching a decade since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. Though Lynch has moderated recently, he has been considered “hostile” to gay rights for much of his political career. Members of the LGBT community, and supporters of equality, have a right to be skeptical about the capacity for Lynch’s advocacy on their behalf.

And, of course, we have Lynch’s opposition to reproductive rights. For the entirety of his political career, Stephen Lynch has been a pro-life, anti-choice legislator. Then, just a few days after entering the Democratic primary, he’s “mishearing questions” and his long-held convictions are beginning to wilt.

With Lynch dialing back his rhetoric on choice, it begs the question of whether he also may regret his long support for George W. Bush’s Iraq War or his votes to reauthorize the Patriot Act or his opposition to Massachusetts’ assault weapons ban or his opposition to health care reform.

For a legislator who has long opposed a woman’s right to choose, Lynch now has a tough decision to make: stick with his conservative record that puts him out of step with most Massachusetts Democrats, or continue a politically expedient drift back to the center that requires him to recant his record or at least sweep it under the rug until after the primary. Either way, for someone who used to be clear about what he stood for, Stephen Lynch is giving voters plenty of reason to be unclear about where a Senator Lynch would stand on the issues.

Mathew Helman is a Democratic political operative and non-profit communications professional. A proud product of the Framingham public schools, Mathew has spent the last ten years working in Massachusetts government and politics.


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