The audio report above is WBUR’s full Morning Edition interview with Rep. Stephen Lynch, and the text report below is by The Associated Press’ Bob Salsberg.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch launched his bid for the U.S. Senate on Thursday casting himself as a “bread and butter” Democrat who learned firsthand how government can offer a hand up in hard times.
Lynch capped a daylong tour of Massachusetts, including stops in Springfield and Worcester, with a rally at a packed iron workers union hall in the blue collar neighborhood of South Boston, where Lynch grew up and worked as an iron worker for 18 years before entering politics.
“I know what it’s like to stand in an unemployment line,” Lynch said to hundreds of supporters. “I learned that in severe economic downturns, that sometimes the only force that can correct that inequity, or give people a chance to lift themselves out of difficulty, or provide some temporary relief, is the government.”
Lynch also criticized efforts to line up Democratic support for U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, who is also seeking the party’s nomination for the special election to succeed Sen. John Kerry.
Lynch’s announcement guarantees a Democratic primary.
“We won’t win this race because of money, or endorsements or back-room deals to clear the field,” Lynch said.
Kerry, who will be sworn in as secretary of state on Friday, is among those supporting Markey, who also starts the race with a substantial financial advantage – $3.1 million in his campaign account compared to Lynch’s $740,000 as of the most recent campaign finance reports.
Markey, who is scheduled to hold a campaign kick-off Saturday in his hometown of Malden, said he’s going to run on his more than three decade record in office.
“My candidacy is going to be based on the battles which I have waged in the past against big oil, against the gun industry, against polluters, against all those interests who have harmed the lives of ordinary families in Massachusetts,” Markey told reporters Thursday.
Lynch began the day in a part of the state where few voters know much about him, and where the people are generally skeptical of Boston-based politicians.
Lynch, accompanied by some union supporters, and mingling among the breakfast regulars at O’Brien’s Corner restaurant on a gray and windy morning in Springfield, touted himself as the underdog outsider and portrayed Markey, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, as “a creature of the Democratic establishment in Washington D.C.”
Lynch even took a shot at a possible Republican candidate, former Sen. Scott Brown, who has not yet said whether he plans to run.
Lynch said he drove a pickup truck, just as Brown was seen doing in campaign ads, but unlike Brown he actually had tools in his and didn’t just drive it back and forth to his law practice.
“I actually slapped on a pair of work boots for 18 years,” Lynch said.
Markey also said he drove a truck.
“That’s how I earned all my tuition to go to (Boston College),” he said.
The special election will be held on June 25, with a primary on April 30.
“I think if the election were held today, I would lose,” Lynch said. “But the election is not today.”
Lynch, who served in the state Senate before being elected to Congress in 2002, also released a campaign video on YouTube that stresses his working class roots.
Lynch, a conservative Democrat, also could face a daunting challenge appealing to primary voters who tend to be more liberal than the electorate as a whole.
He voted against President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, saying it didn’t include many of the changes that were in a House version which he supported. He also opposes abortion, though in an interview on Thursday he said he does not advocate for the repeal of Roe vs. Wade and has supported funding for Planned Parenthood.
Lynch said he would join Markey in supporting a deal to keep outside groups from spending money on political ads in the campaign. Brown and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren abided by a similar “people’s pledge” in last year’s Senate election.
But both Lynch and Markey, who are well known in their eastern Massachusetts power bases, will have to work quickly to build campaign organizations in other parts of the state, like Springfield, where they are well not known.
Retiree Kathleen Murphy, 73, a Democratic activist in the western Massachusetts city, said she didn’t know much about Lynch or Markey, whose name she couldn’t even remember at first. She said she came to the restaurant on Thursday to find out more about Lynch.
While she hasn’t made up her mind who to support, she respected his independence.
“I like an individual like that. He makes his own decisions,” Murphy said.