‘Progressive Champion’ Katherine Clark Vows to Support Women’s Causes in Congress

MELROSE, MA - OCTOBER 15: Democrat Katherine Clark greets supporters after her 5th Congressional District primary win at a celebration in Melrose.
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
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Christopher Snow Hopkins
Dec. 12, 2013, 2:36 p.m.

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.

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