By Mary Whitfill, News Staff
A special election to fill the empty Senate seat left by John F. Kerry when he was confirmed as secretary of state will take place June 25, less than two months after the April primary. Currently filling the seat as interim senator is Northeastern Law School alumnus William “Mo” Cowan, who was hand selected by Governor Deval Patrick and sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden last week. Cowan will not run in the special election.
US Representatives Edward Markey and Stephen F. Lynch have both declared their intentions to run for the Democratic Party nomination to fill the seat.
“[Lynch and Markey] have both held to the values that Massachusetts democrats believe in,” John E. Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said. “They have a couple areas in which they disagree, which I’m sure will be brought out in the campaign, but both of them are the kind of people who would hit the ground running in the US Senate.”
Having spent 36 years in the House of Representatives, Markey has assembled an extensive congressional record. As former chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee and member of the House Energy and Commerce Commission, Markey has a thorough record on hot-button environmental and energy issues.
It is a record that his opponents are sure to scrutinize for any perceived weakness, and one his supporters are already lauding.
“I’m supporting Markey. I like what he has done with climate change, he has been one of the two leaders in the House on the environment and I think he’s done great work there,” Northeastern professor Michael Dukakis, a former governor of Massachusetts and Democratic nominee for president, said. “In the consideration of climate change, Markey’s presence in the Senate is going to be very important. The president has said that he wants to make [climate change] a priority and I hope we will before Cape Cod disappears.”
Markey is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a membership organization within the Democratic Caucus that works to advance liberal issues and positions.
He has said that he wants to fight the National Rifle Association to ban some high-capacity firearms, and he voted against banning federally funded health plans that include abortion coverage last year.
Competing against Markey for the democratic nomination, Lynch is a 12-year member of the US House of Representatives and former member of the state Senate and House.
He carries a reputation as the most socially conservative member of the state’s congressional delegation, and has often voted independent of his party leadership.
Lynch sits on the Financial Services Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He is also co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Labor and Working families Caucus. A former president of the Iron Workers Local 7, he is vocally pro-labor and worked to bring manufacturing jobs to his district.
“I always feel optimistic about our chances because it is sort of a pattern that we have the best candidates,” Walsh said. “Our candidates stand for things that most people in Massachusetts really care about. We are ready to go, we have been working for more than a month to prepare all of the support and logistics so that the day after the primary we will be there to help the candidate in that final push.”
On the other side of the ballot, the Massachusetts Republican Party has two confirmed candidates, but many names floating in the wind as potential contenders.
State Representative Daniel B. Winslow and the relatively unknown Gabriel Gomez will contend represent the GOP after the party was shocked by former senator Scott Brown’s decision not to run. Brown has since taken a job as a commentator for Fox News.
Following Brown’s declaration, a series of similar decisions came from other prominent members of the party. Former governor William Weld, former state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei, 2010 republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker, and Tagg Romney, Mitt Romney’s eldest son, have all declined to run in the election.
“What I can tell you is what whichever Republican wins the nomination will be a clear contrast to whoever the Democrats nominate,” Massachusetts Republican Party Communications Director Tim Buckley said. “Markey and Lynch are two creatures of Washington, D.C. who together have spent a lifetime in the nation’s capital as part of the dysfunction, as opposed to the Republican who will undoubtedly be a fresh face and be able to offer a new direction to Massachusetts voters.”
Winslow was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2011 after delivering a campaign heavily focused on cutting taxes by cutting state spending. He is a member of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Joint Committee of Rules, Joint Committee on States Administration and Regulatory Oversight and the House Committee on Rules.
Gomez, a private equity investor and former Navy SEAL, is a relatively unknown quantity. He has made no public comments on his campaign, but in a press statement Gomez said he was not a Washington insider and derided Washington partisanship.
“Senator Brown shocked the world in 2009 and there is no reason we can’t repeat that success,” Buckley said. “Historically, we have been successful in a couple of special elections so we are very optimistic about this election.”
Special elections come with a set of challenges that is unique to the condensed time frame. While most senatorial election campaigns begin up to 18 months in advance, candidates in the special election have less than six months to win over their constituents.
Perhaps the most challenging goal of harnessing support comes Feb 27, the deadline by which candidates must have gathered 10,000 certified signatures from Massachusetts residents before they can be placed on the ballot.
“For any candidate that is thinking about running, the short timeline in the election is a logistical issue,” Walsh said. “The deadlines that come with this election are going to be a real challenge for people who don’t have a state wide political base or name recognition.”
Neither Markey nor Lynch is a stranger to this type of campaign. In November 1976, Markey won his position as Representative from Massachusetts’s 7th district in a special election against Richard Daly. Similarly, Lynch was sworn into office following a special election in October 2001, replacing John Joseph Moakley, a US representative of almost 30 years.
“I know that Markey already has himself a first-rate field coordinator and he is already got some terrific young people to go out there and start organizing a grassroots campaign,” Dukakis said.
“Grassroots organizing makes a huge difference. [Elizabeth Warren] is a United States Senator today, in my opinion, because she had one of the best grassroots organizations that had ever been put together in a state. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to start early.”
With all eyes focused on the special election, declarations for the 2014 gubernatorial election have taken a back seat. Both sitting Gov. Deval Patrick and sitting Lt. Gov. Tim Murray have confirmed that they will not run for the position.
“I think that if we didn’t have this Senate race right now, there would be a much bigger urgency for people to make decisions on running [for governor],” Walsh said. “Because so much of the energy of campaign organizers seem to be focused on the senate race, it has postponed the timeline of when people really need to get going.”
As of now, the only confirmed candidate for governor is democrat Joseph Avellone, corporate senior vice president at Parexel and a former Wellesley selectman.
“I’ve always been interested in public service and, originally, my career was shaped around health policy,” Avellone said. “The focus of why I want to be governor is helping to grow a 21st century economy in Massachusetts, and also to maintain universal access by controlling health care costs.”
Avellone heads the global division of Parexel, a drug development company, and is former chief operating officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. A self-proclaimed “moderate democrat,” Avellone considers himself to be socially liberal, but fiscally moderate.
“I really think that the focus [in 2014] will be on growing the economy and coming from the private sector and managing organizations. I have a unique ability among candidates to lead the state in doing that,” Avellone said. “It is good to have someone with a business orientation when the focus needs to be on the economy. I understand what it is going to take to get ahead and a lot of what it takes is a trained work force.”