Since Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., launched his campaign last month for the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, a common knock on his candidacy has been that he is too moderate to win a Democratic primary in a deep-blue state against his more liberal colleague, Rep. Edward Markey. National Journal's 2012 vote ratings speak to the ideological divide between the two candidates.
Markey, the dean of the Massachusetts delegation, is tied for the 15th most liberal member of the House of Representatives. Fourteen of his Democratic colleagues, including Rep. James McGovern and former Rep. John Olver of the Bay State, tied for the title of most liberal.
Lynch's voting record last year yielded a more moderate rating. He finished ranked as the 129th most liberal member of the House. "If moderate means not being knee-jerk to one side ... and voting the way your conscience tells you informed by your discussion with your constituents, he's proud of that and that's who he is,” said Lynch campaign spokesman Scott Ferson.
Lynch's composite liberal score of 71.2 makes him the least liberal member of the Massachusetts delegation, which collectively ranks as the most liberal delegation in the house. Lynch's closest Bay State colleague is Democratic Rep. William Keating, whose composite liberal score of 80.5 makes him the 84th most liberal member of the House.
"Calling me the most conservative member of the Massachusetts delegation is like calling me the slowest of the Kenyans in the Boston Marathon," Lynch quipped in an interview last week.
The rating could serve as fodder for Lynch's opponents -- if not for the Markey campaign itself, than perhaps for some of the progressive activists backing his bid -- looking to paint the South Boston Democrat as out of step with the state. In a WBUR-FM poll conducted last week, Markey claimed a sizable advantage among registered Democrats, leading Lynch, 42 percent to 25 percent.
But Lynch's rating could resonate with a group of voters the Lynch campaign is targeting -- moderate Democrats and independents, who are eligible to vote in the Democratic primary. With former Sen. Scott Brown out of the race and an underwhelming GOP field, Lynch's advisers are optimistic that some Brown supporters might vote in the Democratic primary to back the more moderate Lynch over Markey. The WBUR-FM poll showed Lynch leading Markey, 38 percent to 34 percent, among independents who said they will vote in the Democratic primary.
Brown, who is considering a run for governor in 2014, came out rated as the least conservative Republican in the Senate for 2012.