For weeks, state Senator Susan Fargo stood by as several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation endorsed candidates in the race to replace her in the Third Middlesex District.
But last week, Fargo decided she also has something to say.
Fargo, who is not seeking reelection, endorsed Concord Democrat Joe Kearns Goodwin in their party’s crowded primary.
“In watching and listening, I’ve come down to thinking that Joe would truly represent the district in a very, very good way,” she said Thursday.
Kearns Goodwin has plenty of competition, as the five Democrats and two Republicans bidding to replace the Lincoln resident make their final push leading up to Thursday’s vote.
Joining him on the Democratic ballot are Mike Barrett of Lexington, Alex Buck of Chelmsford, Mara Dolan of Concord, and Joe Mullin of Weston. On the Republican side, Greg Howes of Concord and Sandi Martinez of Chelmsford are seeking their party’s nomination.
While Kearns Goodwin received a rare endorsement from US Senator John Kerry, Barrett was backed by US Representative Barney Frank, and Dolan was endorsed by US Representative Michael Capuano. Meanwhile, Kearns Goodwin has raised more than twice as much money as any other candidate, with his backers including Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg and Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig.
Though the district has been reconfigured multiple times, Fargo is the third in a string of women representing the area in the state Senate since 1977. It began with Bedford Democrat Carol Amick, who was elected to the seat after the incumbent, Burlington Republican Ronald MacKenzie, was convicted of extortion and resigned. Next was Wayland Republican Lucile Hicks, who held the seat from 1990 through 1996, when Fargo won her first of eight terms.
Mullin, 65, was the Democratic nominee Hicks defeated in 1990. He said this year’s primary could have a low voter turnout because it is being held on a Thursday in early September.
“It’s going to come down to getting out the vote,” he said.
Public affairs director for the Maynard-based Wellesley Cos., an elected Weston Public Library trustee and a former selectman, Mullin was appointed by President Carter in 1978 to head the Eastern regional office of the Civil Aeronautics Board, a position he held until 1983.
While Mullin said he can’t think of many issues that separate the five Democrats in the race, he believes experience is the main difference among the candidates.
The only one with experience as a state senator is Barrett, who served in the upper chamber as a Cambridge resident from 1987 to 1994, when he left the post to run for governor and lost. He moved to Lexington in 1995.
Barrett, 64, said with so many Democrats in the race, he is focused on the “all-consuming” primary instead of the general election on Nov. 6.
He said his campaign has knocked on more than 21,000 doors in the Third Middlesex District, focusing on the homes of voters who cast a ballot in the past two Democratic primaries.
“I think the experience issue is cutting for me very deeply,” he said.
But the youngest candidate, 34-year-old Kearns Goodwin, said he brings a different kind of experience to the table after serving in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that while serving with a platoon of 30 people with different backgrounds, he had to put differences aside to get the job done.
“I bring a unique set of [experiences] being able to confront complex problems and build a consensus that no one else has,” Kearns Goodwin said.
He is the son of Richard Goodwin, a former adviser to Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. His mother is Doris Kearns Goodwin, an author and historian who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for her book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Now out of the military, Kearns Goodwin is studying to be a lawyer, but has taken time off to focus on his campaign.
Since May, Buck, 38, has also been running his campaign full time, knocking on thousands of doors throughout the district, he said.
Buck has said Beacon Hill needs to represent the average citizen, and he thinks he has the background to do it. A Chelmsford Town Meeting member who is on the local school building committee, Buck has previously run a collectibles store and worked in the life sciences industry.
With the Democratic primary quickly approaching, Buck said, his campaign is trying to reach out “beyond the confines of the primary election.
“This isn’t about being a representative of one group of people, it’s about being the representative of the greater community,” he said.
Dolan, 49, is the only woman seeking the Democratic nomination, and she said more women need to be elected to the Legislature to create a balance of men and women representing the state.
A public defender in Lawrence, Dolan has been a member of the Democratic State Committee and chairwoman of Concord’s Democratic Town Committee.
She said her focus is clearly on the primary election at this point, and she’s doing all she needs to do to win. Her campaign has been knocking on doors and meeting with voters one at a time.
“I’m confident that I can win in the general election no matter who the [Republican] nominee is,” she said.
Martinez, 64, was the Republican nominee facing Fargo in the past three elections, and with the incumbent out of the race, she is hoping more votes will come her way.
A regional committee member in the Massachusetts Republican Party, Martinez helped form the Greater Lowell Tea Party, and has served as a Chelmsford Town Meeting representative.
She said her vote totals have climbed each time she has run for state Senate, and that gives her an edge this time around.
“I’ve got pretty good name recognition in the district, but we’re not taking anything for granted,” she said.
Howes, 44, describes himself as a moderate Republican who is pro-choice and supports gay marriage. The Howes Insurance Group owner completed his second term as a Concord selectman in the spring.
He said his message is far broader than a primary audience wants to hear, and he also believes the election being held on a Thursday may limit turnout. The situation could favor a perennial candidate, such as his opponent, because of name recognition, he said, except that voters have already shown how they feel about Martinez.
“Three times the voters of this district have evaluated her record, and said it’s not what they are looking for as a state senator,” Howes said.