Most of you know that, with John Kerry's resignation to become Secretary of State, we are having a special election to fill the remainder of his term. (Per state law, Sen. Mo Cowan was appointed by Gov. Patrick to hold the seat only until the special election takes place on June 25). The primaries for this special election are next Tuesday, April 30. There are three candidates in the GOP primary and two candidates in the Democratic primary: Rep. Ed Markey and Rep. Steve Lynch.
I'll state now that I'm a strong supporter of Ed Markey. He has been a progressive champion on a large number of issues over the years, and he's a Congressional leader and expert on climate change and environmental issues. I'm sorry to say that knowledge will be more needed than ever in the years to come.
I do not like Steve Lynch. In fact, I don't think there is any Democratic officeholder in Massachusetts for whom I have more antipathy than Steve Lynch. His career has been based, in large part, on pandering to a certain element in his home neighborhood (where I, too, have family) that has given all of Massachusetts a black eye for decades. I've disagreed strongly with Steve Lynch on a number of issues over the years, and I have not liked the way he's run this campaign. But over the last two days, I believe he's crossed a line that no Democrat should cross.
As nearly everyone knows by now, there was a horrible bomb attack near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday. The Senate candidates put their campaigns on hold, postponing the debate scheduled for the night of the attack. This weekend they started to campaign again, but the tone was muted.
On Monday, they had their third debate. And, knowing how much Massachusetts is hurting from the bombs that went off last Monday, not to mention the dramatic events of Thursday and Friday in Cambridge and Watertown, Steve Lynch spent the first half of the debate accusing Ed Markey of being soft on terrorism.
He alleged that Markey had voted against port security and against the Joint Task Force on terrorism, meaning he was against all the federal-state-local cooperation we'd seen last week. Markey, I think, was taken aback by this line of criticism, and finally said that if he voted against it, it was because it didn't make us safe enough. The way he said it made even supporters think it was a weak response.
Thing is, it's true. It took me about two minutes to find a contemporaneous press account that said Markey voted against it because it did not go far enough, and a press release saying he voted no because the bill did not provide for screening cargo entering the country for nuclear bombs.
Last night, at the final debate (the one rescheduled from April 15), Lynch kept at it. Markey fought back hard this time. He said that he'd voted against the port security bills time after time because they lacked protections against nuclear weapons being smuggled into our country. He said he'd voted against the Joint Task Force bill presented in 2002 by the GOP House leadership and the Bush Administration because it gave the military domestic law enforcement power for the first time in our history. (The only Democrats from New England who voted for it: Lynch and...Joe Lieberman.)
Lynch not only doubled down, he took it a step further. He said Markey was "so far out on the left" that his "side" couldn’t get behind “basic decency, stuff like offering condolences to the families” after 9/11. Markey said the Republican-sponsored resolution in question stated that, because of 9/11, we have to invade Iraq. He would have voted for a resolution that only praised those who responded and offered condolences to victims’ families. But the resolution suggested there Al Qaeda was in Iraq, and he wouldn’t be part of that deception. Again, he noted, Lynch was with the GOP and Markey with the rest of the Massachusetts delegation.
Finally, Markey had had enough, and he uttered the words in the title of this post: Lynch had taken "a page from the Karl Rove Swift-Boat playbook."
Sadly, Lynch's whole campaign has been like this. He still calls himself pro-life, but says he won't act to limit abortion rights. Except he voted for Stupak three years ago and he still opposes the right to an abortion on military base hospitals. None of that stops him from saying over and over that Markey, who has been endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood, is the real anti-abortion candidate because he sponsored an amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. Thing is, that was in 1977. Markey's record on choice has been near-perfect for 30 years. Lynch's leaves a lot to be desired even now.
Lynch famously voted against the ACA. He now says it was because it doesn't have cost controls and delivered 30 million new customers to the insurance companies. The proposed alternative to that was a public option. Which Lynch opposed in 2009 and 2010, but now says he favors.
He was for the Keystone XL pipeline, saying a year ago that we've had the technology to run oil safely through a pipe since the 10th century BC. His campaign even decided to punch some hippies over it in March. Then they saw they were losing 75-11 among the majority of Massachusetts Democrats who oppose the project. Soon Lynch was saying he's reserving judgment on the project until the environmental review comes out.
Frankly, his whole career has been like this. Today he's supposedly all for gay rights and against racism. But he won his first race in 1994 by defeating, in a primary, a Democratic state rep. The basis for Lynch's campaign: his own pro bono efforts to get off the hook a gang of white kids who'd beaten up a Latino kid in their public housing projects, and the incumbent's failure to go far enough in defending St. Patrick's Day parade organizers who cancelled their parade rather than allow a gay group to march in it. He proudly called himself the "conservative candidate."
In the state legislature he was true to his campaign. He opposed all hate crimes legislation and any benefits for same-sex partners and supported a "stand your ground" amendment that would have allowed a legal defense for violence against a gay person if that person "came on" to the assailant in a "lewd and lascivious" manner. As was pointed out on another blog, Matthew Shepard's killers would have had this defense if people like Steve Lynch had their way in the 90s. (Markey, to his credit, voted against DOMA.)
Now, running in a statewide Democratic primary, Lynch now says he's for gay rights, even same-sex marriage (which he loudly opposed for decades). But that parade still discriminates and each year Lynch still participates.
All of this, in my book, is bad. But the past two nights have been the worst. Trailing in the polls a week before the primary, Lynch chose to exploit people's fear and anger at what happened here last week, egregiously misrepresenting the record of a fellow Democrat who may well have to face a Republican in the general election. This, more than anything, proves that Lynch is not a worthy Democratic nominee and not a worthy counterpart to Elizabeth Warren (whom he recently insulted) in the U.S. Senate.
But he may win this primary. His despicable tactics won him all the headlines yesterday, and (as a former union president) he has the support of unions known for skill at getting out the vote. In this low-turnout election, that could make the difference.
If you are in Massachusetts, please be sure to vote for Ed Markey and to help the Markey campaign turn out their voters next Tuesday. Even a couple of hours of your time can make a difference. If you are in or outside of Massachusetts, please consider donating to Ed Markey's campaign. He is the progressive we need in the Senate; we have too many conservative Democrats as it is, and can't afford another one from Massachusetts of all places.