Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mass Senate Race Update - primary results

In the midst of finals and grading, but need to write about the Massachusetts special Senate election that may be a bit more interesting then previously thought.

Last week, Democratic Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez won their parties respective April 30 primary elections.  Primary turnout was quite low with about 15% of eligible voters participating.

Markey bested Lunch 57-43, about what I predicted in March.  The Democratic activist base turned out heavily for Markey in the Boston suburbs (many went 80-20 for Markey), academic towns (about 90-10 Markey, the Happy Valley and Cambridge remain red)), and increasingly liberal Western Mass.

Lynch was able to win much of his congressional district south of Boston and the more conservative town in the Merrimack Valley, and parts of Worcester County.  However, his labor union support simply was overwhelmed by the Democratic machine which lined up behind Markey early in the campaign.

In the below Boston Globe map, the communities that Markey won are in blue and the communities that Lynch won are in green.One can see the distribution of votes in each town and when I eyeball this map the first thing that jumps out to me is that Lynch won many of communities that typically will vote Republican in a general election.  I am sure that the Republican powers that be will be looking to pry many of these conservative lunch-bucket Democrats away from Markey for the June 25 election.  Markey's task will be to hold on to these Democrats and get labor on board.

The surprise in this race was newcomer Gabriel Gomez's victory against two established GOP candidates.  Gomez benefited from having both ample funds and quiet support from many of the GOP powers that be (as they are) in Massachusetts.  He ended up with 51% vs Sullivan's 37%, and Winslow's dismal 13% showing.

My sense on this race is that pragmatism won out over ideology.  The Massachusetts GOP did catch lightening in a bottle in 2010 (this race is NOT 2010 revisited by the way - very different candidates and conditions) and may be thinking that going with a fresh faced moderate businessman and  former Navy SEAL is a good contrast against Markey and his 37 years serving in Washington DC.  A more ideological candidate like Sullivan would have made it easier for Markey to paint him as a captive of the national GOP which has a brand image somewhere below fly-by-night  used car dealers.  On the other hand, as Gomez has never held elective office he may not be ready for debates and the rough and tumble of a closely watched US Senate race.

Many on the GOP right (read Tea Party) are unhappy with Gomez as he is socially moderate to liberal and did indeed write a letter to Gov. Patrick asking to be appointed to the position.  Their support is important, but in a perverse way, it may help Gomez not to be identified with hardcore social conservatism in blue Massachusetts.

There are a couple of polls out already on this race which indicate that it may not be quite the Democratic cakewalk that many thought.  I still think Markey wins a relatively solid victory, but will save my thoughts on that for the next posting in a few days once I have had a chance to digest more of the data and how the campaign is shaping up.


The Prof

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