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Mass. Senate

John Sivolella: The pledge is an obvious tactic by Rep. Stephen Lynch, left, and Rep. Ed Markey to put the inexperienced Republican campaigns back on their heels early in the abbreviated special electon. (AP)

Republican candidates for the special U.S. Senate election in the Commonwealth are now scrambling to amass 10,000 valid signatures, having been left with three weeks to qualify for the April 30 primary after former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown dragged out his decision not to run in his third Senate race in four years.

Shortly after the Republicans — none of whom have any experience running for federal office — pulled their papers, old-hand Democratic Senate candidates Reps. Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey “challenged” them to forego a potentially significant source of support for the general election in June.

Lynch and Markey are pushing a retread of the “people’s pledge,” made famous by Brown and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren during their race, to severely restrict the use of third-party ads in the special election.

If there were ever a race where such hand-tying were wholly inappropriate, this is it.

The pledge is an obvious tactic by Lynch and Markey to put the inexperienced Republican campaigns back on their heels early in the abbreviated campaign. But why would any of the Republican candidates in this special Senate election even consider a pledge?

To his credit, Republican candidate Dan Winslow dismissed the notion out of hand shortly after the Democratic candidates floated it. Another fledgling Republican candidate, Gabe Gomez, hasn’t yet addressed the issue, but he would be wise to reject it and move on.

If there were ever a race where such hand-tying were wholly inappropriate, this is it. The goal of the Republicans should be nothing less than working to achieve a modicum of two-party representation — something that has been circumvented by the Democratic machine in Massachusetts for too long. Lynch and Markey are manifestations of the machine. Thus, the pledge in this case doesn’t serve the ‘people,’ but rather the special interests supporting the machine.

Here’s a quick inventory of Bay State lawmakers’ party affiliations: Democrats hold all nine of the state’s congressional seats, the Governor’s Office, and they make up almost 90 percent of the State Senate and 80 percent of the House. Why wouldn’t Republicans utilize every legal source of campaign support — both direct and indirect — to be competitive in one of the most politically one-sided states in the nation?

As for the special election, the wet-behind-the-ears Republican candidates have far less time than usual to build name recognition, fund raise, and present their positions on issues that the electorate actually wants to discuss in these troubled times. With this trap set, the Democratic machine that will ultimately support Markey — who already holds a seven-point lead in the primary — or Lynch, could have an easy time defining the Republicans for voters, without the likes of Winslow or Gomez even getting off a shot.

The goal of the Republicans should be nothing less than working to achieve a modicum of two-party representation, something that has been circumvented by the Democratic machine in Massachusetts for too long.

Markey and Lynch have had their nationwide fundraising apparatuses in place for years. In the 2012 campaign cycle for instance, according to public media sources, Markey raised 40 percent of his funds from PACs, and 31 percent of that money was from out-of-state. Lynch raised 64 percent from PACs, while 16 percent of that was from outside the Commonwealth. And these figures are for races where the candidates had no opposition. The entrenched special interests supporting these candidates run deep. Markey has been developing his since attacking the Reagan Administration in support of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s!

Third-party groups that opt to participate in the race could research the long voting records of Markey and Lynch as members of Congress and highlight certain votes to inform the electorate. This is a project the local Republican campaigns won’t be able to muster given their limited time and resources. Why shouldn’t the public have this information?

Brown was able to suggest the pledge in his race against Warren because he already had major name recognition and was an incumbent senator. He was ostensibly on more of an equal footing with the Democratic machine when he proposed the pledge, though that turned out to be folly in the long-run. Warren out-raised him by over 40 percent, and a large percentage of her campaign money came from out-of-state. He put himself at a competitive disadvantage and overestimated the strength of his grass roots organization.

So, no, these Republican candidates shouldn’t meekly give up potential support for their campaigns. Instead, they should keep their noses to the proverbial grindstone while ignoring distractions like the pledge. They should be aggressive and transparent, bordering on in-your-face. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Tags: Beacon Hill, Boston, Mass. Senate, Scott Brown

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  • Thinkfreeer

    Many good points. I’ve always been a little suspicious of these “agreements.” And I’m more than a little suspicious of the Dem machine in MA. It stinks.

  • J__o__h__n

    Wasn’t the People’s Pledge “moderate” Scott Brown’s idea? Karl Rove’s nasty campaign tactics aren’t going to get the GOP any votes.

  • Paul

    Go ahead. The majority of the electorate rejects the GOP’s aggressive in-your-face ideas anyway. No problem!

  • http://twitter.com/BeingBostonian Alex

    This is what I’ve taken away for this piece:

    The heart of the “one-party” rule in Mass is not related to the Mass GOP or it’s connection with the national party, but rather the “Democratic Machine.”

    The people’s pledge is ridiculous because the Massachusetts people need third parties to research candidates voting records for them.

    Therefore, there seems to be an underlying assumption that the people of Massachusetts are either (a) not smart enough, (b) not attentive enough, or (c) not passionate enough to care about the future of their state and federal government.

  • http://twitter.com/gmhunt4 Joseph Gary Hunt

    Sen. Scott Brown dragged out his decision not run, in order to help the Democrats win the election.

    • gorilla monsoon

      Do you really think or believe that could be true? Maybe he should change his party affiliation. We Democrats would love him to join us.

  • plaintext

    “Third-party groups … could research the long voting records of … members of Congress and highlight certain votes to inform the electorate.”

    We’ve seen how this works: an obscure comment taken out of contect gets exploded out of proportion.

    “… a project … campaigns won’t be able to muster given their limited time and resources. Why shouldn’t the public have this information?”

    Indeed the public should not be prevented from obtaining this information and the great majority of it, if we are indeed speaking of voting records, is public information already. Why can’t the public get this informatin themselves? Why doesn’t the presumably unbiased news media present this information if it is indeed vital? Why is it a necessity for biased moneyed interests to portray our political candidates using their jaundiced perspective?

    “… a large percentage of her [Sen. Elizabeth Warren's] campaign money came from out-of-state”

    Really? How large a percentage? Was that percentage from large institutional contributors or individuals? Were the amounts modest or large? If all the problems with PACs are not by now well-known, then surely it is their lack of transparency that stands at the forefront.

  • MassBear

    Sure, the Democrats are well-organized, etc.; they always have been. But historically Massachusetts residents have preferred to have a Democratic legislature and Republican governors and often, one Republican senator. However, that has always depended upon the availability of Republican candidates that reflect the values of the voters and who seem to have a reasonably well thought out plan of action (and the ability to communicate it); when was the last time we really saw such a candidate? The current Democratic front-runners aren’t unbeatable – but they certainly appear to be in relation to their Republican opponents.

  • maraith

    The author seems to miss the point of the pledge. Having spent time in Ohio, the perennial battleground state, I know what a difference it makes. Ohio is inundated with third-party ads that deliberately distort the record of the PAC’s victim and leave the candidate they support saying, “Gee, I have no control over that message.” The Pledge forces Massachusetts candidates to own their own advertising rather than encourage distortion and lies while disavowing any responsibility for it. That’s the point. And the GOP will be subjecting residents of the Bay State to constant advertising by extremists if they do not sign the Pledge. And we will take note.

  • Dennis

    Hey Ed Markey, how about a haircut – you look foolish.

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