Lynch, the party outsider

Steve Lynch is right — he is not the pick of the Democratic party establishment.
Steve Lynch is right — he is not the pick of the Democratic party establishment.LESLIE E. KOSSOFF-NORDBY

Steve Lynch is right.

The Democrats who control his party didn’t want him to run for US Senate. And, once he defied them, the national party — aided by local enforcer John Walsh, who heads the state committee — would naturally work against his campaign to beat Ed Markey.

“They haven’t been fair,” Lynch told the Boston Herald. “. . . I think they’ve done their best to discourage people from sending me contributions from Washington.”

Maybe there’s a smoking e-mail that states that — or maybe there isn’t.

No matter, because no one has to put it in writing.

It was obvious from the moment John Kerry became secretary of state and the race was on to succeed him that Lynch, the congressman from South Boston, wasn’t the pick of the party establishment; Markey, the congressman from Chevy Chase, Md., by way of Malden, was. Kerry endorsed Markey and so did Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

A variation of this preselection process played out during the Bay State’s last Senate primary. Democratic leaders chased everyone but Elizabeth Warren out of the contest. The previous crop of would-be Democratic contenders faded quietly into that not-so-good political night — except for Marisa DeFranco, who was kept off the ballot at the state convention when she didn’t comply with party wishes.


Lynch was not so obedient. He jumped in. Now he can only watch as Markey vacuums up contributions from big Democratic donors and accepts endorsements from prominent Democratic women and assorted liberal advocacy groups.

Because let’s face it. The political left is just like the political right when it comes to demanding fealty and deciding who will best deliver on it.

On the Republican side of the special Senate election, newcomer Gabriel Gomez lost any appeal he might have with his party faithful when his letter to Governor Deval Patrick became public. In it, Gomez asked Patrick to appoint him interim senator. He also divulged that he might work across the aisle with President Obama. Case closed: Gomez, the ex-Navy SEAL, is a traitor.


The Democrats’ case against Lynch is more complex and also treads on some uncomfortable class turf. Lynch and Markey both share humble roots. But Lynch still wears his. He looks and sounds like what he is, a former ironworker who had to scrap for a seat at the table of power. Markey hasn’t lost his Massachusetts accent, but over decades in the nation’s capital, he has absorbed the look of establishment Washington and the politics of establishment liberals.

Advantage, Markey. Liberal politics dominate Democratic primary turnout and drive this race. Markey’s positions on health care and abortion rights are key to the support he’s receiving.

Markey voted for the Affordable Care Act — “the proudest vote of my career,” he declared during a March 27 televised debate. Lynch voted against it, the sole member of the Massachusetts delegation to do so. He opposed it, he said, because the legislation was flawed and ended up as a giveaway to health insurance companies. Lynch may be right on principle, but voting against what Democrats perceive as Obama’s signature achievement is a tough position in this primary.

Lynch personally opposes abortion. (So does Kerry, by the way.)

If elected to the Senate, Lynch said, he wouldn’t vote to make abortion illegal. He also pledged to oppose any Supreme Court nominee who might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.


When Markey was first elected to Congress in 1976, he opposed abortion and once backed a proposed federal constitutional amendment to ban it. He began shifting his position in the 1980s, and is now prochoice. His explanation for the evolution is anything but smooth, but he’s still endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Those advocacy groups have great fund-raising capabilities and, with them, the ability to turn out voters who embrace abortion rights as their primary cause.

That’s what Lynch is up against. Markey’s backers are fighting for their definition of the soul of the Democratic party. To that end, they will pour every dollar they can into Markey’s campaign and they will work to turn out every like-minded voter.

Inclusiveness is not the goal. Compliance is.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.