There's a Massachusetts Special Election Tomorrow and You Don't Care

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 29 2013 5:47 PM

There's a Massachusetts Special Election Tomorrow and You Don't Care

The minute Scott Brown passed on the special election to replace John Kerry, this summer's Massachusetts U.S. Senate race became a snooze. In the minutes that pressure-cooker bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, the race became half-sideshow, half-farce.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

First, the farce. Rep. Stephen Lynch, the pro-life Democrat who represents most of Boston, was the first to pounce on "homeland security" as an issue after the bombings. After a week of campaign silence, Lynch returned to the airwaves with a straight-to-camera we're-gonna-get-through-this ad.

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Simultaneously, in the final debates with Rep. Ed Markey—the front-runner, who passed on the original chance to win this seat 29 years ago—Lynch asked why his opponent had been so damn weak on terror.

“Every single member of Congress, Democrat and Republican, that supported funding for homeland security, that supported having a coordinated effort between federal, state, and local officials – we all voted for that, you voted against it, and somehow you’re the champion,” Lynch said, pointing to a 2002 vote to establish the Joint Interagency Homeland Security Task Force in which Markey was one of 10 votes in opposition.
“If I did vote no, the reason I voted no was that they were excluding a provision that would have made the bill even stronger,” Markey replied.
After the debate, Markey praised the anti-terrorism task force’s work since the marathon attacks.

This was a clever-looking sneak attack, as evidenced by Markey's shrug of a response. I said clever-sounding.

Lynch was mistaken. He had his terrorism task forces tangled.
Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was created in 1997, an FBI spokeswoman said. That was four years before Lynch was sworn into ­office. And it was not crafted by ­Congress, said Tom Powers, a former FBI agent who helped create it.
“I don’t recall any congressional mandate or anything from Congress,” said Powers, who was a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Boston office in 1997. “It was an FBI initiative.”

This whole story, from the Boston Globe is hilarious, down to Lynch's insistence that the attack was mostly right because "there was a vote to create a task force." It was Lynch's closing attack, and he whiffed it.

Ever since Scott Brown won the January 2010 Senate special, the national political press has treated Massachusetts with caution bordering on phobia. Nobody wants to blow another prediction; nobody wants to miss the NEXT SCOTT BROWN. Does the new Suffolk poll of "bellwether towns"—Markey's up roughly 2-1 in them—mean the race is over? Look, it is Suffolk, which dramatically blew the 2012 election when it announced that Florida and Virginia were such Romney locks that they hardly needed to be polled. But it seriously looks like the garage door is closing on this one. Markey, if he wins, gets to face a second-tier Republican candidate having been blasted in debates (not so much in paid media) as a liberal "extremist."

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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