It came as no surprise when Democrat Katherine Clark walloped her opponent Tuesday in a special election to fill the Massachusetts House seat vacated by Edward Markey. By all accounts, the result was a foregone conclusion.
"It really was over after Clark won the primary in October," said David C. King, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "Clark didn't even bother running a ground game during the general election. You could have had the state's most prominent Republican running in this district, and it would not have made a difference."
Clark, a state senator from Melrose, received 66 percent of the vote, besting Republican Frank J. Addivinola Jr. by 34 points. Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District, which hugs the northern perimeter of Boston, is home to three world-class universities. President Obama easily carried the district in last year's general election, winning by more than 30 points.
Reached on the phone, Clark was ecstatic. She was sworn in Thursday as the 79th woman in the House.
"I am tired but also exhilarated to be able to represent [the district] in Congress and get to work," she said. "One thing that surprised me about the campaign is that people still really believe in Congress and its ability to "¦ function again. I found that really heartening."
Clark has said that one of her first acts in Congress will be to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, an expansion of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. A former aide to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Clark has been hailed as a "progressive champion" by EMILY's List and vows on her campaign website to "stand up to extremist Republicans attacking a woman's right to make her own health care decisions."
"She's the whole package," said Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School. "She's a wonderful example of a woman who does it all and does it well."¦ When women are judged on their merits, women win."
Born in New Haven, Conn., Clark is a graduate of St. Lawrence University and Cornell Law School. After practicing law in Chicago, she came to Massachusetts in 1995 to earn a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School. Clark then served as general counsel for the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services and was elected to the Massachusetts House in 2008. She migrated to the Massachusetts Senate two years later and was sworn in to her second term in January.
The 50-year-old lawyer is married with three sons, ages 11, 13, and 17. She cites Elizabeth Warren as her role model.
Clark was seen as the front-runner from the moment she announced her candidacy in February, and she survived a crowded primary in October in which five candidates each received more than 10 percent of the vote.
Over the course of the campaign, she hauled in $1.2 million, about 30 times the amount raised by her Republican opponent. (Addivinola, who was shunned by the state and national Republican parties, loaned himself an additional $62,000.) Down the homestretch, The Boston Globe reported that Clark had "all but disappeared from the campaign trail." Tuesday's turnout was an anemic 13 percent.
Asked if his campaign was doomed from the start, Addivinola was defiant. "It's a responsibility of people who desire to work in public service to step up to the plate and to run for office, even when the prospects may be small for a victory," he said. "It's unfortunate that the statistics are the way that they are, but we should not deny the fact that there are many people that live in this district that would also like representation."
The Boston lawyer, who has now run for office four times, hinted that this would not be his last campaign.