The front page of Thursday's Boston Globe features imagery that could cause Rep. Edward Markey, the Democratic frontrunner for the Massachusetts Senate race, some headaches. It shows dueling photos of Markey's home in Malden, Mass. alongside the much larger house he and his wife own in Chevy Chase, Md.
Since Markey launched his campaign in December for the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, the press and Republicans have raised questions about how much time the 37-year Capitol Hill veteran really spends in his home state. But Markey's Democratic primary opponent, Rep. Stephen Lynch, won't pass judgment.
"I don’t take attendance on Ed Markey on whether he’s in Boston or he’s in Washington," Lynch said in a phone interview Wednesday. "That’s not my bag.”
The Globe's story doesn't make any sweeping conclusions about how often Markey leaves Washington: His water bills suggest he spends little time in Malden, but local residents say he's regularly seen in the neighborhood. But the front page treatment helps ensure that the discussion of Markey's homes will continue. While Lynch won't criticize his colleague on the issue, he acknowledged that the attention paid to Markey's Beltway residence fits in with a larger narrative being pushed by Lynch and his supporters: The notion that Lynch, who has served in the House for more than a decade, is the Washington outsider in a match-up with Markey, who was first elected to Congress in 1976.
“It certainly lends a contrast to our styles," Lynch said. "You can be a Washington-based elected official and still do a pretty good job. It’s just a different style. It’s not my style. I’m home every week.”
Before entering politics, Lynch, like his father before him, worked as an ironworker, eventually becoming the president of his local union. His campaign has emphasized his previous career from the outset, holding his speech announcing his candidacy at the union hall of Iron Workers Local 7 in South Boston.
Lynch said he can relate to Massachusetts residents who have struggled under trying economic conditions, specifically citing the working-class populations in cities like Brockton, Worcester and Springfield. He said the Senate could use more members from working-class backgrounds.
“I know what it’s like to stand in an unemployment line," Lynch said. "I strapped on a pair of work books for 18 years.”
When Markey announced his candidacy in December, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced their support, along with Kerry and Vicki Kennedy. Lynch conceded that the national backing will provide a huge boost to Markey's campaign financially, but cited the endorsements when arguing that he would be a more effective legislator in a chamber often criticized for its inaction.
“If you’re looking to have somebody go to the United States Senate and be an agent of change, I don’t think you should go with the establishment’s pick who has been in Washington for 38 years," he said.
The most high-profile example of Lynch's tendency to buck the party line came in 2010, when he voted against the Affordable Care Act despite facing extreme pressure from the White House, congressional leaders and special interest groups. The vote won him scorn from labor unions, which had previously represented a huge base of his support. Lynch held off a primary challenge later that year from Mac D'Alessandro, a regional political director for the SEIU.
Now courting the labor movement in his race against Markey, Lynch isn't backing off his health care voted. He pointed to a Wall Street Journal piece from January that detailed how some unions are now critical of elements of the health care law. "Now my vote doesn't look so bad," Lynch said.
But health care, along with his moderate record on social issues, likely will remain an obstacle for Lynch running in deep-blue Massachusetts against a better-funded opponent. Critics argue he doesn't fit the Democratic electorate, and the state's progressive activists favor Markey. But Lynch remains optimistic, drawing hope from previous special election victories that landed him in the state Senate and Congress.
“This is my third special election and I wasn’t supposed to win either of the two previous," Lynch said. "So it looks like I’ve got them right where I want them."