The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state's largest union, is throwing its support behind Edward Markey's U.S. Senate bid, prompting fellow Democratic Congressman and Senate hopeful Stephen Lynch to portray himself as more supportive of President Obama's education agenda.
The backing of the union, which boasts more than 100,000 members in Massachusetts, could give Markey a big assist in helping turn out campaign volunteers and donations in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the departure of former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry to become secretary of state.
MTA President Paul Toner on Wednesday called Markey a "strong and effective advocate for public education and the rights of working men and women."
Toner pointed to what he called Markey's record of backing special education funding, increased online privacy protections for children, programs to fight childhood obesity and fair access to student loans. He also credited Markey for being the lead author of a section of a 1996 telecommunications law that has provided federal subsidies to connect schools and libraries to the Internet.
"If Ed Markey is elected, we are confident he will fight as hard for students and public education in the U.S. Senate as he has done in the House," Toner said in a statement.
The MTA is the state affiliate of the three-million-member National Education Association, which is also backing Markey. Toner said the two associations will be able to organize their members ahead of the April 30 primary.
Markey welcomed the support.
"I will continue to work to ensure our teachers have the resources they need to provide the best education system possible for our children," Markey said in a written statement.
Lynch was quick to respond, citing his own education record. Lynch said he's the only candidate in the Senate special election who "fully supports President Obama's education reform agenda."
"I have long supported collective bargaining rights for all workers, including public employees," Lynch said in a written statement, adding that he will "continue to fight in Congress for expanded early education, teacher training, and a student evaluation system that relies on more than just standardized test scores."
Lynch also described himself as a strong supporter of charter schools and said he co-founded the Boston Collegiate Charter School in his home neighborhood of South Boston.
Lynch, who worked as an ironworker for 18 years, has traditionally enjoyed strong support from labor unions during his years in Congress.
Unions could play a key role in an election where there is little time to collect the signatures and raise the cash needed to mount a winning statewide campaign.
The most immediate deadline is Feb. 27 when candidates must submit the 10,000 certified voter signatures needed to get on the primary ballot
Markey and Lynch are the only Democrats to have formally entered the race. Marisa DeFranco, an immigration attorney, is weighing a run as a Democrat.
This program aired on February 13, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.