Rep. Stephen Lynch (D)
Massachusetts 9th District
The Irish remain the dominant political tribe in Boston, and in Massachusetts, though even in South Boston, long the center of Irish Boston, vestiges of the old neighborhoods are starting to gentrify. Southie’s influence endures in the memory of two Irish Democrats who represented the area for all but two years from the Great Depression to the start of the 21st century. The first was John McCormack, an old-style backroom deal-maker who served as House speaker during the 1960s; the second was Joe Moakley, a close pal of Thomas (Tip) O’Neill’s, who chaired the influential Rules Committee before Democrats lost the House majority in 1994.
2008 Presidential Vote
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The 9th Congressional District, historically anchored in Boston, has followed the move of the Irish to the suburbs. Today, fewer than one-third of its residents are in Boston, mostly in the still-Irish areas of South Boston, Hyde Park (shared with the 8th District), and West Roxbury. Completion of the transformational Big Dig highway construction project, with a new tunnel under Boston Harbor, has spurred economic development along the waterfront, including office buildings, hotels, condominiums, the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, and a huge convention center. The development has reduced some of the parochialism in South Boston but has increased complaints of gentrification and of pricing the working class out of old neighborhoods.
Now that the ugly Central Artery, the north-south expressway that for five decades divided the city, has been moved underground, traffic flows far more efficiently (though progress came at a price: huge cost overruns drove the Big Dig bill to $15 billion, and the collapse of ceiling tile in a tunnel in July 2006 killed a woman). The 9th District also takes in much of Beacon Hill, including the gold-domed State House facing Boston Common. From there, the 9th heads west to the comfortable suburbs of Needham and Medfield, and southeast to Braintree, ancestral home of the presidential Adamses, and Brockton, the old shoe manufacturing town. Ethnically, this remains a heavily Irish congressional district, with Southie as home to an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade preceded by a political breakfast and roast that is a must-attend for state politicians. Only the neighboring 10th District has more residents of Irish ancestry—further evidence of the Irish move out of Boston to the far suburbs.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D)
Elected: Oct. 2001, 4th full term.
Born: March 31, 1955, Boston .
Home: South Boston.
Education: Wentworth Inst., B.S. 1988, Boston Col. Schl. of Law, J.D. 1991, Harvard U. JFK Schl. of Gov., M.A. 1998.
Family: Married (Margaret); 2 children.
Elected office: MA House of Reps., 1994-96; MA Senate, 1996-2001.
Professional Career: Structural ironworker, 1973-91; Practicing atty., 1991-2001.
The congressman from the 9th District is Democrat Stephen Lynch, who won a special election in October 2001 to succeed the late Joe Moakley. Lynch grew up in Boston’s housing projects and took pride in making good by following the old ethnic precepts of hard work, family loyalty, and personal determination. After graduating from South Boston High School, he joined his father as a full-time ironworker while attending Wentworth Institute. Eventually, he became the youngest president in the history of the 2,000-member Local 7 of the Ironworkers union. After a fall on the job cut short his ironworking career, he graduated from Boston College Law School and opened a legal practice representing working people. In 1994, he was elected to the state House. Fourteen months later, he won a special election for a seat in the state Senate.
|Stephen Lynch (D)||242,166||(99%)||($739,421)|
|Stephen Lynch (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (78%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (100%), 2001 (66%)
Lynch built a political base in South Boston and had strong union ties, advantages that led him to pursue the seat when Moakley announced in February 2001 that he would not seek re-election. The ailing Moakley, who was beloved by many House Democrats as a link between the party’s old and new generations, died in May of that year. Lynch was one of several Democrats who had expressed interest in the race. The most prominent was Max Kennedy, son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, but his campaign never gained traction. When Kennedy bowed out, Lynch became the front-runner. He stumbled after The Boston Globe revealed his student loan defaults years earlier, plus a tax lien that was resolved in 1998. He had also been arrested twice two decades earlier, for striking an anti-American student demonstrator and for smoking marijuana at a concert.
Three other state senators opposed Lynch, and the strongest among them was Cheryl Jacques, who is openly gay and had support from EMILY’s List and other national feminist groups that criticized Lynch’s anti-abortion views. But her switch in opposition to capital punishment stirred controversy. Moakley’s two brothers, who wielded much influence, endorsed Lynch. Primary Election Day was September 11, 2001, but Republican Gov. Jane Swift decided not to postpone the vote despite the terrorist attacks. Lynch bested Jacques, 39% to 29%. In the anti-climactic general election five weeks later, he defeated another state senator, Jo Ann Sprague, 66%-33%.
In the House, Lynch falls roughly in the middle of the Democratic Caucus, and he has had the most conservative voting record in the Massachusetts delegation, especially on cultural issues. “That’s like being called the slowest of the Kenyans in the marathon,” he once quipped to the Boston Herald. Initially, he turned his attention to security, both at the nation’s airports and in the war on terrorism. In 2006, he helped to secure $25 million for rail security in the Homeland Security spending bill, and he pushed for tighter port security. He was one of three Massachusetts House members to vote for the Iraq war resolution, and joined the first congressional delegation to Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Later, he criticized contractors’ “disgraceful” abuse of war funding and questioned possible contract violations by the Blackwater International security firm. In 2006, he was one of 42 House Democrats to vote for a Republican resolution backing President Bush’s policies in Iraq. And in December 2007, he was the only House member from Massachusetts to vote for a war spending bill. He showed unexpected support for gay-rights causes, developing a political alliance with Rep. Barney Frank, a liberal gay lawmaker from Massachusetts.
Lynch has been much engaged in the congressional investigations into steroid use in professional baseball. At hearings in 2005, he criticized Major League Baseball for a policy that “facilitates steroid abuse” and threatened additional congressional action. When former Red Sox star pitcher Roger Clemens testified in February 2008 that he had not used steroids, Lynch said he doubted that Clemens was telling the truth and called for prosecuting players who use steroids.
He has been re-elected without difficulty. In 2006, Lynch was challenged by Jack Robinson, who had run two statewide races. Robinson supported Bush’s Social Security partial privatization plan and cuts in capital gains and income taxes, and called for dividing Iraq into three territories. Lynch had little reason for concern and won 78%-22%. Unopposed in 2008, he expressed interest in running for the Senate or for Boston mayor.