As a resident within the Massachusetts 5th Congressional District, I have had the privilege of being represented by Ed Markey. I, along with most of the folks reading this blog, worked hard to ensure that he became our new Senator-Elect — and I am ecstatic that we will have yet another true progressive champion in the US Senate. Naturally, many of my friends and colleagues have begun talking about the next race here — the race to succeed Ed Markey. I want to be clear: in this post I am speaking on behalf of myself only, and this should not be construed of the opinion of the organization I work for or any organization I am associated with – this is just me needing to say a few things.
I want to propose a few assumptions about this particular seat that you can feel free to disagree with, but that I think are pretty basic.
Assumption 1: Whoever wins the Democratic Primary in CD5 will almost assuredly win the general election.
Assumption 2: Whatever Democratic candidate becomes the next Congressperson will hold that seat for the foreseeable future. I look at Congressmen Markey, Frank, Olver, Neal, McGovern, Lynch, and, yes, even Tierney as evidence. Even Tierney, who is about as threatened a Congressman as you could get in MA won his re-election against a strong Republican candidate (Tisei). So, barring some scandal, or more likely the Congressperson moving on to run for something else / getting appointed to something, whoever wins this race is there until they pretty much don’t want to be there.
Assumption 3: Right now, the Speaker of the House is GOP John Boehner. Given that, I think it’s safe to say that all of the Democrats currently running for this seat would probably not have a whole lot of influence as a 1st-term minority Congressperson, outside of the issues that are specific to this district and whatever noise they can make. They’ll each find at least a cause or two to champion, and do the hard work of good constituent services, but in terms of their votes, in this Congress, they’ll all be about the same — voting with the mainstream Democratic Party on almost everything.
Assumption 4: All of the candidates are good people, who have their own unique record of accomplishments to point to. Carl Sciortino, Katherine Clark, Peter Koutoujian, Karen Spilka, and Will Brownsberger are all qualified to be in Congress. They can each do the job; the question is who is best for the job.
Therefore, this election is not just about the next two years. It’s about who residents of the CD-5 want for the long term, and who, in the meanwhile, will make as much noise as they can to move the issues that matter to this district and Massachusetts down the field. To combat the Tea Party, we should elect a strong, bold progressive candidate. And moreover, this is the only Congressional election I can think of where money and consultants and Party support and all the rest…just don’t matter.
When making up your mind who to support I would only ask this: vote your aspirations.
Some real talk that you won’t see in fundraising emails: in this election we, as progressive Democrats, have the privilege to not worry about a tough Republican challenger. We can go and elect the Democrat we actually want. Moreover, we’re privileged to have a slate of good candidates and not have to “vote the lesser of two evils.” In other words, your vote for the person you really like is not going to give a vote to some horrible candidate, a la Nader giving a vote to Bush because there are no Bushes. Because we have such a great field, do not vote or support the candidate you think is the frontrunner or who has the “party backing”: support the candidate who you think is the best. We have the luxury in this race to do that without worrying about consequences down the road.
When choosing who to support ask yourself: Who is going to be the best ally of Elizabeth Warren’s as she takes on Wall Street? Who is going to be the best ally of Ed Markey’s as he takes on Big Oil? What issues will the candidate for Congress champion while they’re a member of the minority party? And what would they do once they get some seniority and have the power to influence legislation down the line? Are they going to push the envelope? When Democrats eventually do return to power will they work with Speaker Pelosi (or whoever the Speaker is) to push forward progressive legislation? Will they push Speaker Pelosi (or whoever) to go farther than they otherwise would?
In CD-5, vote your aspirations. We are blessed to have 5 good candidates. Don’t let party apparatus, money, or any other side issue influence you.