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Stevie from Southie or Eddie from Malden?
That’s the choice Massachusetts Democratic voters will have in three months when they head to the polls and choose a nominee for the Senate special election.
And it will be a real choice.
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, a former ironworker elected to the House in 2001, is the most socially conservative member of the Bay State’s federal delegation. He’s set to announce his bid for Senate on Thursday, setting up a race against Rep. Edward J. Markey, a staunch progressive. Markey is the dean of the Massachusetts delegation and has held elected office since 1973.
The race will be a stark contrast in backgrounds and constituencies. Lynch, from South Boston, represents a mostly urban district that includes his home turf and has many middle- and working-class constituents who are socially conservative Democrats. Markey represents a broad swath of suburbs outside Boston that includes some urban areas, such as his hometown of Malden, but also some of the wealthiest and most liberal municipalities in the state.
Markey has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, departing Sen. John Kerry and former Rep. Barney Frank, among others. Lynch begins with some strong local organized labor support, though Markey will also have some unions on his side.
Markey supports abortion rights. Lynch is personally against abortion rights but has supported funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Markey voted for the health care overhaul; Lynch voted against it.
Given their backgrounds and political positions, it’s no surprise the early narratives of Markey and Lynch bend in different directions.
“This special election should be focused on issues and ideas that matter most to the people of Massachusetts — getting dangerous guns off our street and out of our schools, building a clean energy future, and strengthening the middle class,” Markey wrote Wednesday on the influential Bay State blog Blue Mass Group.
Scott Ferson, a Lynch spokesman, said the congressman would focus on “bread-and-butter” issues in his Senate announcement: the economy, job creation and policies that benefit working families.
Ferson acknowledged that Lynch would be fighting against the Washington, D.C., establishment, but he said the congressman had never been a go-along-to-get-along member.
“He didn’t go to Washington to fit in; he went there to stand up for working people,” Ferson said.
Lynch undoubtedly begins the primary as the underdog. But Democratic insiders see a plausible path to victory for him if Markey stumbles and Lynch can unite strong union support with working-class Democrats in urban areas such as Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Lowell.
And, insiders said, progressive voters will be pleasantly surprised by how liberal Lynch is once — if — they get past his views on abortion.