The debate agreement between Democratic US Senate candidates Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch calls for six debates across the state including, for the first time since 2002, one in the central Massachusetts city of Worcester. For the last several cycles there have been debates in Lowell, Springfield, the South Coast, and of course, Boston. Somehow Worcester and the central part of the state has been ignored for over a decade.
In addition to Worcester, the cities of Lowell, Boston, New Bedford, and Springfield will host debates between the two candidates for US Senate.
During the 2012 campaign for US Senate between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown the Worcester Telegram and Gazette published a strongly opinionated column from the Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty on why they should host debates:
A debate between these two candidates in Central Massachusetts would recognize the importance of the region to the commonwealth and in the general election this fall.
Our economic, medical research, educational, and cultural contributions play a significant role in the health and competitiveness of the state and in our reputation on the national stage. Forbes has ranked Worcester as one of the best cities for business and careers, the second-happiest city in the nation to work and the ninth most livable city in America. The voters deserve the opportunity to host a debate for these reasons alone.
So now that Worcester is finally getting the attention it deserves what other regions of the state are being ignored? Where should the sixth debate be held?
Here are three possible locations for a sixth debate that immediately come to mind:
Cape Cod has not been home to a major debate in recent memory and is a huge economic engine for the state, particularly when it comes to tourism. Surely there are some suitable venues near Route 6 that could host the candidates. The Cape is a mixed region politically as it is split between blue and red towns.
The South Shore, a region that's home to the largest mall in the state, the South Shore Plaza, and the largest town by area, Plymouth. The South Shore is one of the more conservative pockets of the state, consistently voting for Republicans in statewide elections over Democrats.
Pittsfield is an hour west of Springfield but for some reason we so often forget that the state keeps going after junction of the Masspike and 91. It is the biggest city in the most rural part of the Commonwealth and a gateway of sorts for the Berkshires.
SOMERVILLE – Hurricane force winds and sideways snow could not stop two Stephen Lynch supporters from gathering signatures in the middle of Davis Square this afternoon. Jay Fraiser and Joe Kelly set up a table on a traffic island across from the Somerville Theatre around 10 a.m. with hopes of getting about 100 signatures.
By 1 p.m. they had over 250.
“I didn’t think there’d be this many people out right now. I did think people would be out walking their dogs. We love Jack Williams but how much more of Jack Williams can we take? It’s been like 48 hours straight of Jack Williams,” said Kelly, 32, a Somerville based union electrician and avid fan of the WBZ news anchor.
Kelly, layered up with Carhart pants, said they had to be out there to get signatures for Lynch because they did not have much time to get him on the ballot.
While Kelly spoke with me Fraiser appeared to know every plow truck driver that passed us by.
“Hey Leo! Can I get a signature for Stephen Lynch? He’s running for US Senate!” he yelled before a truck stopped.
“You’re Somerville, right?” Fraiser asked before handing the driver a clipboard with nomination papers.
Fraiser spent Friday night at Kelly’s house outside of Davis Square just for the purpose of gathering signatures for Lynch on Saturday morning. They are both members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103.
Fraiser, who says he has gathered around 2,500 signatures for Lynch, chalked up his support for the South Boston congressman because “he’s a regular guy.”
“We want to put this guy in the Senate. I wouldn’t be out here in this blizzard for anybody else,” he said.
Lynch campaign press secretary Conor Yunits said the campaign is pleased with their efforts but wants people to be safe throughout the weekend.
“We want all of our supporters to be safe and use caution throughout the weekend if they are going to campaign. Their efforts to gather signatures during this storm speaks volumes about our volunteers,” said Yunits.
Yunits said that Kelly and Fraiser were not being paid by the campaign.
I reached out to the campaigns of Ed Markey and Dan Winslow on their signature gathering process earlier this week as well but neither disclosed their field plans for this weekend.
Candidates for the special election for US Senate have until February 27 to submit 10,000 valid signatures of registered voters to secure their place on the ballot.
The accelerated calendar for the special election for US Senate makes signature gathering all the more difficult for candidates, particularly the ones just getting in the race. This weekend's blizzard is only contributing to the stress that field directors are surely feeling as it all but eliminates a major signature gathering weekend. At the handful of public forums I attended this week signature gatherers were out in full force for the campaigns and that's a smart move by them because people that go to civic gatherings are almost certainly registered voters.
While out hoarding assorted canned goods and batteries for the blizzard of doom I did not come across anybody gathering signatures for any of the candidates. This is baffling because the stores are jammed with people right now stocking up on goods like they are doomsday preppers.
Stephen Lynch's campaign said that they are going the full volunteer route when it comes to getting on the ballot. Dan Winslow's campaign is using a mix of volunteers and paid gatherers. I have seen many Ed Markey volunteers out in the field gathering signatures but his campaign has not stated how they are approaching the ballot access issue.
There's nothing wrong with campaigns paying people to gather signatures to get on a ballot. It's a pretty common practice not just in Massachusetts but across the country for candidates and political organizations to pay people to obtain the required to signatures for ballot access.
The declared and potential candidates for the special election to fill John Kerry's Senate seat.
Congressman Ed Markey
Congressman Stephen Lynch
Democrats On The Fence
2012 Senate candidate Marisa DeFranco
Former City Council candidate Doug Bennett
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow*
*Ablow says he will run if certain conditions are met.
Republicans On The Fence
State Representative Dan Winslow
Former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez
2010 Republican Senate candidate Jack E. Robinson
2012 Congressional Candidate Daniel Fishman
The immediate challenge facing any candidate running on a major party line in the special election for US Senate is steep: 10,000 signatures must be submitted to 351 city and town clerks across the Commonwealth by the close of business on February 27. On March 6 those papers must be submitted to the Secretary of Commonwealth’s office for final certification.
Ballot drives are a herculean task with several moving parts that require extensive discipline and organization. Campaigns have to make sure their nomination papers are in near mint condition, signatures line up with the correct town and ward, deal with a local elections officials, and most importantly they have to collect enough valid signatures to sustain any challenge.
There is little doubt that some prospective candidates, particularly on the Republican side now that Scott Brown is out, included this hurdle in their decision to opt out of running in the 2013. Losing any election is embarrassing but committing to run for office and then failing to make the ballot is humiliating. It last happened locally in 2008 when Jim Ogonowski came up short in his efforts to make the ballot to challenge then Senator John Kerry.
When making the ballot candidates have really just two options when it comes to qualifying for the ballot. One option is paying an outside firm to collection petitions to get on a ballot, an effort that sometimes costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. This process is usually faster and frees up staffers to focus on other efforts but it drains campaign coffers of valuable cash.
The other option is organizing volunteers to get on the ballot. This method is cheap and can yield valuable data to campaigns that know how to use it efficiently. Volunteer led signature gathering gives organizers an opportunity to plug volunteers into a campaign at a very early stage, something that can prove valuable on Election Day when they need every warm body they can find to turnout voters.
Third party candidates and independents have a little more time to get their act together and on the ballot with an April 3 deadline.
The clock is ticking.
Former US Senator Scott Brown emailed the media earlier today to inform them that he is not running in the 2013 special election for US Senate. Brown had been quiet on his plans about running until today.
The only declared candidates for the race are two Democratic congressman: Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey.
Here is the full statement from Brown:
“Representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate was the greatest privilege of my life, an experience that takes second place only to my marriage to Gail and the birth of our daughters. It was a higher honor than I had ever expected, and in the time given to me I always tried to make the most of it.
“When I was first sent to the Senate in early 2010, it wasn’t exactly welcome news for President Obama or many other Democrats. Yet among my best memories from those three years in office are visits to the White House to see the President sign into law bills that I had sponsored. I left office last month on the best of terms with colleagues both Republican and Democrat. I had worked well with so many of them, regardless of party, to serve the public interest just as we are all supposed to. All of this was in keeping with the pledge I made at the beginning to do my own thinking and to speak for the independent spirit of our great state.
“Over these past few weeks I have given serious thought about the possibility of running again, as events have created another vacancy requiring another special election. I have received a lot of encouragement from friends and supporters to become a candidate, and my competitive instincts were leading in the same direction.
“Even so, I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time. And I know it’s not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me.
“That is why I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for the United States Senate in the upcoming special election.”
So with Scott Brown out of the race for John Kerry’s old seat what other options do Republicans have left that would stand a fighting chance?
Former Governor Bill Weld
The former governor was quite popular during his time in office before leaving for what he thought would be the job of Ambassador to Mexico but he was never confirmed. Weld later worked in New York for several years and made a failed bid for governor in 2006 there before returning to Massachusetts in 2012. A shorter election cycle may hurt Weld as he may need to reestablish name recognition throughout the Commonwealth after being away. A run by Weld, a man who last held public office here in 1997, shows that that Republicans still have some work to do when it comes to building up a bench of possible candidates for 2014.
Former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey
A run by Healey in this special election would give her an opportunity to make up for her disastrous run for governor in 2006 when she ran what many considered an overly negative campaign against Governor Deval Patrick. Healey’s close association with Romney could be a real burden for her as he remains very unpopular. Healey does have a considerable fortune that she could tap into if she runs as well as a national fundraising network developed from her time in national Republican politics.
State Representative Dan Winslow
Winslow has nothing to lose in a longshot run for US Senate and would be a perfect proving ground for a guy who hints at aspirations for higher statewide office. Winslow benefited from Brown’s 2010 special election win as it triggered the domino effect that led to his election as state rep. Winslow is a common fixture on social media as well as local television and radio.
Former State Representative Karyn Polito
The central Massachusetts based pol has been out of politics for three years but could resurrect her political career with an impressive run in a special election. Polito lost to Steve Grossman in a race for treasurer in 2010 by nine points.
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow
The Newbury resident floated speculation that he would run if Brown or Weld stay out of the race in a statement in early January. Ablow is a frequent contributor to Fox News and was heard often on former talk station WTKK. Ablow has a practice in Newburyport.