Gingerly, the five candidates for US Senate struggled on Tuesday to reconcile how and when to restart campaigning in a state drastically different than the one they barnstormed the day before, and with its collective mind far from politics.
The four campaigns airing television ads pulled them from the air following the blasts. Political operations, which typically ratchet to a higher intensity in the final two weeks before voters go to the polls, temporarily shut down their fund-raising and retail door-knocking.
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a friend of the Dorchester family who lost an 8-year-old son, maintained the highest public visibility as an officeholder, appearing at press conferences where officials briefed about the status of the investigation.
His opponent in the Democratic primary, US Representative Edward J. Markey, stayed in his district north of Boston for much of Tuesday, said a spokesman from his congressional office. Another victim, Krystle Campbell, lived in Markey’s district.
A debate scheduled between the two Democratic candidates for Thursday night has been canceled.
‘They’re going to have to perform an extraordinarily delicate dance. It’s going to be very difficult for all of these five candidates to try and effectively campaign.’
On the Republican side, former US Navy SEAL Gabriel E. Gomez, who completed the Marathon moments before the explosions, gave news organizations interviews centered on his race participation and planned to attend a vigil.
Michael Sullivan — the former US attorney and acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms — was conducting interviews in the context of his law enforcement background, said his campaign manager. State Representative Daniel B. Winslow attended a vigil in Wrentham Monday and stayed at home Tuesday, a spokesman said.
The race to succeed Mayor Thomas M. Menino also ground to a halt. Candidates ceased what had been a flood of phone calls trying to woo political activists.
Officials from all five Senate campaigns were loath to discuss strategy on the record, fearful of being seen as cravenly political.
But with two weeks until the party primaries that will select nominees for the June 25 general, they acknowledged they would need to find a way to translate Monday’s killings into campaign language.
Some advisers also noted that beyond perceived crudeness, it could be difficult to calibrate campaign responses, with fallout that could change rapidly. As the city grieves, the government investigation could evolve in directions that render even a carefully phrased campaign statement ill-suited, strategists said.
“They’re going to have to perform an extraordinarily delicate dance,” said Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College. “It’s going to be very difficult for all of these five candidates to try and effectively campaign.”
A few campaigns planned to relaunch their political ads and field operations midweek. Others said they were still waiting to decide when to jump back into campaign mode.
Politics in the wake of planned destruction has acquired something of a rhythm, in which candidates issue statements of sympathy and resolve, muffle campaign operations for a few days, then return to the trail with professions of solemnity and unity.
After hijacked airplanes struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York won global acclaim for his handling of a city both devastated and panicked. For candidates seeking office, the challenge is different.
“They took a deep breath — that’s number one — and they were very careful to not be seen as using the tragedy in any way to ingratiate themselves,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York Democratic strategist. “Personal aggrandizement was out of the question.”
Like Giuliani at the end of 2001, Mayor Thomas Menino is also on his way out of office. Beset by health problems even before a broken leg confined him to a wheelchair last week, Menino has had a flush of media and popular praise for his 20 years in office. That aura, Sheinkopf said, could grow as Boston struggles to recover from its own terrorist attack.
“It becomes almost a religious experience for a city, and its leaders take on a very different position than they ever had, and there’s a solemnity to it that’s unexplainable,” said Sheinkopf.
In the Senate race, he said, candidates would do well to avoid delivering detailed policy proposals to prevent attacks.
“The more specificity you have, the more it sounds like you’re politicizing the event,” Sheinkopf said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to do these four things and then it’ll be better.’ Because no one believes it, because there’s no way you can ever feel better. That’s the point.”
In Lynch’s case, both geography and relationships lend him status to appear more frequently in public, officials from rival campaigns said. Lynch visited the Richard family Monday night, he told reporters. His wife, Margaret, worked at Marian Manor with Denise Richard, the mother of 8-year-old Martin, who was killed Monday, a Lynch spokesman said. Denise Richard and her daughter were recovering Tuesday from serious injuries, their husband and father, Bill, said.
The mayoral race is in such an early stage that some people who plan to announce their candidacies have postponed it. Even potential candidates who have decided they will not run for mayor have remained quiet in deference to the victims.
One candidate who has been visible was Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who spoke at a press conference Tuesday morning with other state, federal, and local officials.
Councilor Michael P. Ross, who represents the district where the blasts occurred, also kept a public profile. Ross has suspended campaign activity, but he has been working with constituents, clergy, and businesses in the impact zone, he said.
The candidates may have suspended their campaigns, but the city’s election calendar continues to move forward. On Wednesday, candidates can sign up for nomination papers, a first step in securing a candidate’s name on the ballot for the Sept. 24 preliminary election. Candidates are expected to begin arriving at City Hall at 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the Election Department will open for business.