Lynch says no to Senate run; Capuano seen getting in

As politicians and policymakers continue to enter and exit the fluid field of U.S. Senate candidates, state lawmakers are gearing up to vote this week on the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s request for an interim appointment.

One thing was for sure: U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch finally found a special election he didn’t think he could win.

Citing an “insurmountable” time frame for putting together a statewide organization, Lynch (D-South Boston), the most conservative of the Bay State’s all-Democrat delegation on Tuesday took his name out of consideration for a run to succeed Kennedy.

Lynch, a former structural ironworker and labor and employment attorney, said in a statement that the “challenge of putting together the resources and organization necessary to wage a competitive statewide campaign in less than 90 days is insurmountable.”

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has been maneuvering to run for more than a year, was the first to declare her candidacy.
Congressman Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), who shares representation of Dorchester with Lynch, is expected to officially announce his candidacy this week. City Year founder Alan Khazei says he is considering getting into the race. On the Republican side, state Sen. Scott Brown of Wrentham and Selectman Robert Burr of Canton have declared their candidacies.

Separately, a bill under consideration on Beacon Hill would hand Gov. Deval Patrick the power to name the appointment to serve until the results of the Jan. 19 special election are in. House lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill on Thursday.

Members of the Dorchester delegation have displayed a range of opinions on the possible change to a law that was last changed in 2004. At the time, Beacon Hill Democrats feared that then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, would replace U.S. Sen. John Kerry if he won the presidency. Almost entirely along party lines, the House and Senate voted to set up a special election process instead of giving the governor appointment power.

State Sen. Jack Hart and state Reps. Marie St. Fleur, Brian Wallace, Gloria Fox, and Marty Walsh all signed off on the change in the law in 2004. State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and state Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Willie Mae Allen were not in office then.

But some are now expressing doubts. Hart told the State House News Service that lawmakers were weighing “the value and the importance of having two senators in this critical time, balanced by the electorate’s view of the Legislature” and perceptions of “sleight of hand.”

Wallace and Walsh have said they oppose changing the law.

Republican lawmakers have said Democrats are changing the law for political purposes and accusing them of hypocrisy over the change.
“I think it is the right thing for us to do,” Chang-Diaz told the Reporter, noting that a special election remains in place. “It’s not [a reversal].”

“I think it is a reasonable bill,” Forry said, while Allen added, “I certainly approve of the governor appointing an interim senator.” St. Fleur was non-committal, saying she still needed to read the bill. Fox said she wanted to be supportive of the bill, but was similarly non-committal.

As for the special election itself, Lynch’s decision disheartened some supporters. But money appears scarce in the weak economic climate and the Dec. 8 primary is right around the corner.

“Running statewide is a daunting task,” said Walsh, a Savin Hill Democrat and a top Lynch supporter. “It’s hard to put an organization together. You’re talking about thousands of calls you have to make. Some of the candidates were up and running earlier than we thought [they would be].”

Lynch “just didn’t have labor,” said one local political operative, unaffiliated with any of the campaigns.

Coakley has drawn a steady stream of support from labor unions, including the Teamsters Local 125 Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 and several local elected officials, including state Senate President Therese Murray. The two unions have ties to Mayor Thomas Menino, who has not publicly said whom he is supporting.

Others have pointed to the lukewarm reception Lynch received at a Labor Day health care rally on Boston Common last week as indicative of what he might have faced in a Democratic primary, thanks to his tepid reception to the idea of a government option in health care reform.

Lynch won his present seat in a 2001 special Congressional election, held on Sept. 11, the same day as the terrorist attacks, after the death of Congressman Joseph Moakley. He was a state senator at the time, winning that seat in a special election after then-state Senate President William Bulger stepped down.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

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