The Boston Marathon bombings undoubtedly overshadow Tuesday's Massachusetts Senate primary to succeed now-Secretary of State John Kerry, and the pall over the race, and general disinterest in the race may mean record-low turnout at the polls.
On Tuesday's The Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd spoke via phone with most of the Senate candidates from both parties on how they’re preparing for low voter turnout and what they’re each watching for as returns come in.
Democratic primary voters will choose between Reps. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch, with Markey getting most of the Democratic establishment behind him and still leading in polls and fundraising. On the GOP side, former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Daniel Winslow are battling in the primary race.
Gomez has the momentum for the GOP going into the special election Tuesday, and is the only one among the three candidates that most national Republicans believe could make the general election a real one. But though some fear might be too moderate to emerge from today’s GOP primary though, Gomez said his brand of Republicanism was where the party should be going
“I have been Republican all my life, and I'm a fiscal conservative. It's more personal responsibility and freedom and smaller more effective government,” said Gomez. “I didn't need a 100-page presentation to let me know how I should run my campaign. I’ve been doing that since day one, and that’s to be more inclusive and broadening the party. I’m talking about what we stand for as opposed to what we’re against.”
Sullivan, a former acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who’s been backed by some Tea Party groups, defended against charges he was too conservative to be competitive in a general election.
“The example of our having somebody represent the Republican Party’s principals gets great support from the Republican base. It gets great support from independents and Democrats alike,” said Sullivan. “We bring a unique set of experiences to the campaign unlike anybody else from the Democrat and Republican side.”
Winslow, trying to jump from the state House to the U.S. House, has lagged behind both Gomez and Sullivan, but just released his first TV ad Monday, highlighting the many newspaper endorsements his campaign netted, including the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.
Winslow argued that while they may not have been visible on air, his ground came would surprise people this Election Day.
“This has been a campaign like no other. More than half of the voters were undecided or willing to change their minds.” Pointing to his field program, Sullivan said “hat can make a difference in the race for 150,000 voters likely to turn out.”
Illness caused Lynch to cancel most of his campaign events on the eve of the election, and with his candidate still recovering from laryngitis, Lynch spokesman Conor Yunits spoke with Chuck Todd.
On whether they were worried about independent voters that the more moderate Lynch needs crossing over to the GOP side instead, Yunits said they weren’t fretting about what the primary makeup would be.
“People forget that [former Sen.] Scott Brown didn't win because of a number of Republican voters suddenly appeared in Massachusetts,” said Yunits. “He won because a number of Democratic-leaning unenrolled voted in the Republican primary, and we think we will be bringing those people home today.”
Yunits said the Boston Marathon bombings that paused the campaign for a week had changed the tenor of the campaign, but he hoped that would spur more people to the polls.
“I believe it has changed the dynamic a little bit, said Yunits. “We hope they remain engaged, and the best way is to participate in it.”
Markey was unable to join the program this morning, but sent The Daily Rundown a statement on his campaign in the closing days, pointing to his more liberal voting record than Lynch’s that would get voters to the polls.
“We have built the best grassroots field operation in this state. We have thousands of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls, and we are doing everything we can to get out the vote,” said Markey.
On the Boston tragedy, Markey said he hoped it would also encourage people even more to exercise their voting rights.
“We've experienced unspeakable tragedy over the past several weeks, but we've also seen the strength of resiliency of the people of Boston and Massachusetts, who have been determined not to allow the actions of these attackers to keep them from participating in our democracy,” said Markey.”