It feels like the election Massachusetts is poised to forget. You know, the one taking place on Tuesday.
Based on data such as absentee ballots, turnout could be unusually low, even by the standards of a special election. Less concretely, there’s just a certain buzz that seems to be missing.
Several theories have been floated to explain the apparent lack of voter interest. Obviously, the Marathon bombing has diverted attention from just about everything else. But the thing is, even before that, people just didn’t seem that into it. Perhaps a tough winter contributed. Maybe people were worried about the sequester, or the prospects for the Red Sox. Even the most astute analysts have struggled to put their finger on it.
My pet notion: Even in an area that so loves politics, we are suffering from just a bit of campaign fatigue. Even I am suffering from it, and I get paid to care about politics.
The past couple of years have felt like one long electoral march. First there was the Brown-Coakley Senate race, which was followed by two years of nonstop Scott Brown coverage. Then there was the Brown-Warren Senate race, which coincided with a presidential campaign that included a former Massachusetts governor as the GOP nominee. Five months later here we are in the midst of a special election — two of them, actually, if you count the First Suffolk district’s state Senate contest — and under the circumstances, the races don’t feel special at all.
That is too bad for a slate of candidates that has been unfairly maligned as boring. It really isn’t their fault that we could use a breather.
Ed Markey and Steve Lynch are both fine congressmen who represent genuinely contrasting political views. Their last debate was especially intense. This primary battle between the moderate and liberal wings of the state Democratic party ought to pique more interest.
Likewise, the GOP candidates are more interesting than some make them out to be.
Former US attorney Michael Sullivan — who some people believe to be the front-runner — is the darling of the conservative faithful. The brainy and quirky state Representative Dan Winslow has won nearly every major media endorsement, with his promise to transcend partisanship and get things done in Washington. Gabriel Gomez, the former Navy SEAL turned businessman, might be the one who would be most fun to have lunch with, though I have reservations about whether he has sufficiently developed positions on most of the issues.
In Boston, the state Senate race has gone from lively to relatively quiet in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings. State Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester and Nick Collins of South Boston are the top contenders, joined by Maureen Dahill.
Dorcena Forry was considered the favorite at the start, largely because Dorchester holds the majority of the votes in the district. Collins is banking on a heavy turnout in Southie — driven by Lynch supporters — and has clearly made inroads in Dorchester as well. Dorcena Forry would be a trailblazer if she wins, a Haitian-American representing South Boston. But the race feels far more competitive than it did initially.
Perhaps everyone has it wrong, and the political passion long presumed to be part of Boston’s DNA will make a surprise appearance on Tuesday. Maybe the Boston mayor’s race, the first open race in 20 years, will get voters’ juices flowing in a way that yet another Senate election has not. In all likelihood, this snoozefest will prove to be the product of a rare confluence of events, and not the start of a trend.
During the weekend, the candidates in both elections were madly crisscrossing the city and state, in a last-minute scramble for undecided voters. The voters who, thus far, have seemed tuned out.
The voters will be back, though maybe not in time for Tuesday’s primary election. Politics is part of who we are. It just doesn’t feel that way at the moment.