Continuing our coverage of this week’s special elections, voters go to the polls today in Sen. Ed Markey’s (D) former Boston suburban House district to begin the process of choosing a new member for the first time in almost 37 years. Markey, who originally entered the House in 1976, was elected to the Senate in June replacing former Sen. John Kerry (D) who President Obama appointed as Secretary of State.
It is likely that the first-place finisher in today’s Democratic vote will also win the special general on Dec. 10. Massachusetts’ 5th District is heavily Democratic: Obama ’12, 65 percent; Obama ’08, 66 percent; Markey ’12, 71 percent; Markey ’10 (District 7), 64 percent; Markey ’08 (District 7), 75 percent. Therefore, tonight’s Democratic victor becomes the prohibitive in December.
Seven Democrats vie for the party nomination, and internal campaign polls have shown five of those candidates to be within single digits of each other, meaning any one could conceivably win.
Four of the five strongest competitors are currently state legislators, three from the Senate. Katherine Clark, Karen Spilka, and Will Brownsberger are the senators; Carl Sciortino is a member of the state House of Representatives; and Peter Koutoujian is sheriff of Middlesex County.
The campaign polls made public, all from reputable survey research firms, have shown Sen. Clark holding the lead, but her margins have almost all been within a single point or two over both Sen. Spilka and Sheriff Koutoujian. Rep. Sciortino, by virtue of running a clever ad featuring his Tea Party member father that captured many voters’ attention thus causing his numbers to spike, and Sen. Brownsberger are within striking distance.
As is the case in all special elections, turnout will be key. Whichever of these candidates does the best job of getting their voters to the polls will be the winner. It is probable that less than 20,000 votes will crown a nominee. Since Massachusetts has no run-off system, a plurality of votes is all that’s necessary to win a party nomination.
On the Republican side, attorney Frank Addivinola, physicist Mike Stopa, and former Marine Tom Tierney are battling for their party’s nomination. The Republicans are badly outnumbered in this district and the general election is likely a mere formality.
The 5th District surrounds the city of Boston to the north and west, encompassing the cities of Revere, Markey’s home of Malden, Melrose, and part of Cambridge before stretching all the way west to annex the major town of Framingham. Based upon the available polling data, and on-ground indications, it is projected that the final Democratic vote tally will be extremely close.
Notes: Tomorrow, voters in New Jersey will decide the special US Senate race. On Saturday, the open northeast Louisiana seat of former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA-5) will hold its special jungle primary election that will produce two qualifiers for the special general election regardless of political party affiliation.