BOSTON — One of the two Democratic candidates in the special U.S. Senate race has earned a major endorsement. The Massachusetts Teachers Association on Wednesday said it’s backing Rep. Ed Markey, of Malden, against Rep. Stephen Lynch, of South Boston.
Union Support — Divided
The teachers association is the largest union in the state, with 110,000 members. The president of the union, Paul Toner, says the biggest value of the endorsement is that it will mean teachers will talk to other teachers about why Markey is the best candidate.
But Democrats also say the teachers are a pretty independent group, more independent than the firefighters or building trade unions, many of which are backing Lynch. Yet while many union members are loyal to Lynch, others feel he is not as liberal as they would like in a Democratic nominee.
Steve Tolman, the president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, recognizes the divided loyalties in the labor movement.
“Yes it’s frustrating because you a have difficult choice to make, but yes, it’s also a good thing because you have two very good candidates who have very good track records,” Tolman said.
Both candidates will address the AFL-CIO on March 1. The candidate who gets two-thirds of all those present and voting gets the endorsement, but it’s hard to see how either candidate can get that many votes.
Money And Organization — Advantage Markey
Markey has the better campaign organization. He’s hired Carl Nilsson, President Obama’s campaign field director in Massachusetts, and given him free rein to form a field organization. On the other side, Lynch until recently had only two paid campaign staffers, along with help from his congressional staff. [Update at 2:30 p.m.: A spokesman says the Lynch campaign now has 20 staffers, including a field director, Joe Rull, who was Gov. Deval Patrick’s labor director in 2010.]
Markey also a has a clear advantage in fundraising. He had more than $3 million in his campaign account at the end of the year, has brought on Elizabeth Warren’s top two fundraisers, and has the support of Barbara Lee, another key fundraiser in Massachusetts. Lynch has slightly less than $750,000 in his campaign account.
Enthusiasm — Advantage Lynch
The enthusiasm seems to be with Lynch. Democratic political consultant Chris Keohan, who was Mike Capuano’s deputy field director in 2010 when he ran for the Senate against Martha Coakley, echoed what several Democratic operatives have said.
“I think there’s definitely an enthusiasm gap right now on the Markey side. I think environmental voters, real progressive voters, they’re enthusiastic about Congressman Markey, but nobody’s jumping out of their seats like they were for Elizabeth Warren,” Keohan said. “I think people get it, it’s his time, he’s paid his dues and it’s time for him to take the next step up. But it’s tough to see enthusiasm on the level you saw with Elizabeth Warren, that you see with Deval Patrick, and that’s what we’ve gotten used to in Massachusetts. And if there’s not that type of enthusiasm then it leaves everything open.
“[Markey's] still the front-runner,” Keohan added. “I think people expect him to win. And if people get caught in a lull, that’s when you’re going to see someone like Congressman Lynch come out and win the thing.”
What About The Republicans?
On the GOP side, three candidates have announced: Former Ashland Selectman Jon Fetherston, state Rep. Dan Winslow, of Norfolk, and Cohasset private equity investor Gabriel Gomez.
State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, of Gloucester, is still considering a run and weighing the huge cost of having to pay for a signature-gathering company to get the 10,000 signatures he’ll need by the end of the month to get onto the primary ballot.
And Plymouth County Republican Chairman Vince Cogliano says people are already trying to gather signatures for former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.