Mass. Senate

Don't count him out though, says Chris Keohan. The congressman has made a habit of beating the odds -- especially when it comes to special elections. In this photo, Rep. Lynch at the WBUR studios, March 4, 2013. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

It’s been a rough week for Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Lynch.

In the past seven days Lynch failed to secure a crucial union endorsement from the AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union, and he is receiving harsh criticism for being the only member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation not to sign onto a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

To say this isn’t how he planned the post-signature gathering part of his campaign would be an understatement.

Running against an establishment candidate – in this case, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey — is never easy. Doing it without the official backing of the union you have been a life-long member of is a body blow to a campaign that needs good news. Last Friday, after a year of coalescing behind Elizabeth Warren,  the AFL-CIO took an official position of “no endorsement” in the Senate race to replace John Kerry.

The decision shows just how divided organized labor is in this election. Building trades, like the ironworkers, where Lynch is a past president, have overwhelmingly taken his side, but the progressive unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO has been leaning toward Markey.

Later that day, it was revealed that Lynch failed to sign on to the letter signed by the rest of the delegation urging the high court to overturn DOMA. Lynch, who says he never received the email, insists it was not a political decision. Oversight or not, the kerfuffle is not helping boost his popularity among the progressive wing of the party – the base of voters believed most likely to turn out for the Democratic primary on April 30th.

Also last week, two days before the AFL-CIO announced its decision and the DOMA news came to light, Lynch suffered a tragic personal setback with the sudden death of a close friend and adviser. Bill McDermott, a prominent attorney and one-time Boston elections commissioner, was struck and killed last Wednesday as he crossed L street in South Boston. The death of McDermott, who had a brilliant strategic mind and was widely considered to be the lawyer to call for Democrats locked in tight elections, leaves Lynch and his campaign working toward Election Day for the first time without the Congressman’s most trusted confidante.

In the abbreviated schedule of a special election, Lynch can’t afford to have any more weeks like the one he just had. Still, the congressman can’t be counted out. He is the consummate underdog with a history of winning special elections he wasn’t supposed to. (In 1995, he won a special election to the state senate. In 2001, he won another special election to represent Massachusetts’ 8th district in the House of Representatives, where he’s been ever since.)

Though he failed to get the AFL-CIO’s endorsement, the 44 unions who have endorsed his candidacy are fighting mad and ready to work harder than ever before. They see this election as “us against them.” The elite party establishment in D.C. trying to dictate the next senator of Massachusetts from afar, as the working class wing of the party continues to be pushed aside. It’s motivated constituency not to be taken lightly and neither is Stephen Lynch’s candidacy.

Editor’s note: Chris Keohan is a Democratic political operative who remains unaffiliated with either the Markey or Lynch campaigns.


Tags: Mass. Senate

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • KayLee

    We are a union family. We are not interested in supporting a Senate candidate who voted against healthcare, who was anti-choice until 2 weeks ago, and who thinks it is acceptable for LGBT people to be excluded from ANY event for ANY reason.

    • rkean

      Lynch voted against the “Affordable Care Act”, not against health care. He did so because he wanted, as do most Americans, the public option. Lynch has always supported Planned Parenthood as a matter of policy and he has an understanding in his gut about what happens to poor women who are denied access to contraception and abortion. Should he be elected to the Senate he would be THE FIRST UNION MEMBER IN THE SENATE! This is why 44 unions are supporting Stephen Lynch. The AFL-CIO is compromised by its obsequious (read, suck up) relationship with the Democratic Party. As a member of the nurses’ union, I’m for Lynch.

      • Kevin

        As a member of the nurses’ union, surely you know that there was one realistic opportunity to expand access and make reforms to the health care system this decade, and Lynch voted against it. Many Democrats more progressive than Lynch wanted a public option too, but they didn’t vote to cut off their noses to spite their faces. Lynch stood against the President and the rest of his party by voting against the ACA for one reason: political cowardice.

        And while he may have supported funding for PP, he voted against providing buffer zones so women can access the clinics safely.

        If you want someone who will be a champion of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, vote Markey

      • bob

        Nobody actually believes that Lynch voted against ACA because he wanted a public option. Are you actually suggesting that rather than being our most DINO member of the delegation, he’s actually Mr. Progressivity himself? Hardly.

    • BW

      Right on, KayLee!

      And to rkean: as a fellow member of the MNA nurses’ union, I am surprised you aren’t keen enough to know that the current environment doesn’t allow a public option, and lynch voted against the option that expands coverage for those who need it most. nurses for markey!

    • sam_bone

      As a union member, I’m with you. Lynch didn’t get the DOMA email? I don’t think so.

  • Futo Buddy

    its funny to see the democrats eat each other almost as much fun as when the pubs did it in the presidential race


      Really? A healthy debate between two very different candidates and you think it’s “eating each other?” I’ll take our debate over the one the Repubs had thank you very much. At least we are not cheering for letting people who have no health care die.

      • mary

        Wow, that’s pretty insightful.

  • rkean

    But wait, Chris Keohane is a “Democratic political operative” who is unaffiliated with Markey, the pick of the Democratic Party?? He is clearly unaffiliated with Lynch since he buried the real story at the end- 44 unions support Lynch.


    A few comments and reactions. First, I am tired of the whole “the DC dems picked Markey as the front runner” meme. If the media ever bothered to actually cover the campaigning part of campaigning, or stop the whole “he said she said” form of reporting (Lynch being a consummate whiner of the “DC elite choosing Markey” complaint) maybe they could learn the truth.

    I am not influenced by DC Dems, thanks, and neither are the many many others I’ve seen at Markey organizing events. A lot of whom are relative newbies in political campaigns – having been inspired by the Warren campaign, a lot of them.

    There are many genuine reasons to be for Markey for progressive Dems, not the least of which is Markey’s championing of the environment and stance on fighting global climate change. He is for that issue what Warren is on banks, and we need him in the Senate. His stand on choice and gay marriage and a host of other issues is progressive, and Lynch has a demonstrated history of being…rather…right of center, to be generous. Now he says he changes his mind? Maybe he should have done that a few years ago when he could have made a difference. Now it’s just pandering to a statewide electorate that he realizes isn’t like his home base in Southie.


      PS – I’m really saddened to hear of the death of his friend though. What a horrible thing.

  • maraith

    As a long-time union supporter, I have been distressed by those union members who swing to the right when it comes to denying others their rights such as women, gays, and immigrants. Lynch is one of those who wants to keep what he has while denying others any piece of the pie. Unions are truly about the underdog and finding strength in mutual support against managers who favor profits on the backs of workers. In this race, Markey is the real union candidate.

  • Rapparree

    I hope Lynch sees what syncopants the unions are when the chips are down. I think Lynch will get the union vote in any case. I would rather see Lynch in the Senate than Markey -any day.

  • murmur55

    Stephen Lynch needs to be RICO’s for his pillow talk trips to Israel with the corrupt Albie Sherman.

  • Former Westie

    Lynch is part of the old world where people voted based on their religious beliefs. How does one get behind someone whose every vote supports the views of the church when masses of people are fleeing it because of scandalous priestly behaviors and coverups going all the way to the top. The Unions aren’t stupid and they have morals and thats why Stephen Lynch will be having many more bad weeks.

  • cha

    What abut defaulting on his student loans. REALLY????