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Marathon tragedy tempers campaigning

Senate candidates taking a respectful approach on stump

Daniel P. Winslow: Voters want return to normality.
Daniel P. Winslow: Voters want return to normality.

As the city embarks on the road to recovery from the horrific Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt that left it partially paralyzed, the US Senate hopefuls in this month’s special election primary are returning to the political battlefield.

But all five candidates agree: campaigning in the primary’s final 10 days will need to be delicate.

Republican hopefuls Daniel P. Winslow, Michael J. Sullivan, and Gabriel Gomez will all attend events and canvass neighborhoods throughout the weekend. The two Democrats competing in the primary, Representatives Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch, both said they are still holding off and probably will not resume campaigning until Monday.


Michael Sullivan: Hopes voters will be reenergized.
Michael Sullivan: Hopes voters will be reenergized.Barry Chin

Markey, whom polls show with a lead in the Democratic primary, declined an interview request. Campaign officials said the candidate was uncomfortable doing interviews while his campaign was suspended.

When the Markey campaign does resume, it will avoid excessive canvassing, especially in the areas locked down during Friday’s manhunt, said Andrew Zucker, Markey campaign spokesman.

His opponent Lynch said he will be uncomfortable stumping even once the campaign resumes, and stressed that, for now, political events remain out of place.

“It just doesn’t feel right yet,” Lynch said in an interview Saturday. “We had a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the affected families. We need to be respectful to them.”

Each of the Senate campaigns called off events and advertisements early last week, after three people were killed and more than 170 injured in the Marathon bombings.

Stephen F. Lynch: Hopes for “call to arms” for election.
Stephen F. Lynch: Hopes for “call to arms” for election.Christine Peterson

All five candidates attended the Interfaith Service at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Thursday, which featured a speech by President Obama.

“It just wasn’t a time for politics, whatsoever,” said Gomez, who was near the scene of Monday’s bombing after having just finished running the Marathon himself.

Gomez noted that his wife and children had just left the finish line when, about 2:50 p.m. Monday, two bombs placed near there detonated. A former Navy SEAL, Gomez said that he feared an attack as soon as he heard the first explosion.


Moments later, he said, his spirits were lifted as he saw dozens of spectators rushing to help those hurt in the blasts.

“I saw the best of Boston moments after literally hearing the worst of Boston in the explosions,” he said.

Gabriel Gomez: Will focus on positive campaigning
Gabriel Gomez: Will focus on positive campaigningBarry Chin

While the Democrats remain on the sidelines, all three Republicans have been back on the trail, and plan to continue to campaign throughout the weekend at meet-and-greets, campus visits, and other appearances.

Gomez stressed that while his campaign has now resumed — including a few events scattered throughout the state on Saturday — he was going to put a renewed emphasis on solely using positive campaigning, out of respect for those still traumatized by the week’s tragic events.

Winslow, a state representative and former judge, said he is also treading lightly while on the trail this week, but noted that many of the voters he is encountering are eager to return to normal everyday life.

During Friday’s manhunt, he tweeted photos of himself meeting with voters at campaign events. On Saturday, he visited a Cape Cod gun show and tweeted about it.

In a phone interview between events on the Cape, Winslow said that voters at the gun show told him they hope the campaign’s focus shifts to gun rights and domestic security issues.


Edward J. Markey: Will do less canvassing.
Edward J. Markey: Will do less canvassing.The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

“I do think these attacks will help highlight the policy differences between all of us,” Winslow said. “People are really engaged right now.”

While the other candidates have stayed largely out of the limelight since the attacks, the third GOP senate hopeful, Sullivan, was a well-known presence on cable television shows.

As the former director of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he has been inundated with press requests as the investigation into the attacks continues.

Sullivan said he has campaigned at a few events since the bombing, including a candidates forum in Taunton on Thursday night also attended by Winslow. He cleared most of his political calender last week and said, in retrospect, he still questions the decision to attend the forum.

“I really didn’t feel great about doing it,” he acknowledged. “As a city, we still haven’t fully recovered.”

Sullivan said that he hopes last week’s tragedy will cause voters to be reenergized in the political process leading up to the April 30 primary, even if it will still be a few days before he is ready to go all-out on the trail.

“To be honest with you, it’s a balancing act,” he said. “So far, it’s been a struggle to get back into the campaign mode.”

In an interview, Lynch recalled his first congressional primary victory, which came in a vote cast on Sept. 11, 2001.

Even as much of the nation sat glued to televisions, watching the horrific attacks in New York and Washington unfold, state leaders in Massachusetts urged voters to go the polls in the election, resulting in strong voter turnout.


“There was a call to arms in response to those attacks. I hope they’ll be a similar call to arms come April 30,” Lynch said. “The best way to defend Democracy is to participate in it.”

Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.