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Markey move spotlights problems of running for two offices in the same election

By GEORGE B. MERRY / May 10, 1984



Political fallout from Edward J. Markey's 11th-hour decision to discontinue his candidacy for the US Senate, in favor of a reelection bid for the US House, may not blow away soon.

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Although the congressman from Malden had a perfect right to change his mind about reaching for higher office, the move can hardly be expected to enhance his elective career. Indeed, it could cost him the seat he has held for the past 71/ 2 years.

But regardless of Representative Markey's political future, his decision to quit the Senate race only a week before the filing deadline for his nomination papers underscores a major shortcoming in Massachusetts election laws. Worse, his decision came just a few hours before the filing cutoff for the state legislature, which affected three state lawmakers who had to decide whether to continue their campaigns for Markey's congressional seat or to try retaining their state posts.

In the aftermath of this shuffle, the Markey decision raises two serious questions worthy of lawmaker consideration:

1.Should an office-seeker (incumbent or no), having applied for and begun circulation of nomination papers, be allowed to seek signatures either simultaneously or in the same campaign to run for a different elective post?

2.Should a candidate, having collected funds to run for one office, be permitted to use these funds in a quest for another political niche in the same election, if the candidate changes his or her campaign sights?

From an ethical standpoint, at least, the answer to the second question appears to be a resounding ''no.''

When people contribute to help a candidate gain or retain a particular office , there is no certainty any donors want their money used by the candidate to campaign for a different elective seat.

In the spirit of fair play, Markey may want to return every one of the more than $270,000 he had collected for his run for the US Senate seat being vacated at year's end by fellow-Democrat Paul E. Tsongas. The congressman, now bent on reelection, could begin raising funds (with perhaps a clearer political conscience) for what should be a less costly campaign to retain his seat in the state's Seventh Congressional District.

If nothing else, this would put him on more even footing with his challengers , none of whom are likely to raise anywhere near as much momey in their bid for the US House seat as Markey collected in his 31/2 months as a contender for the US Senate seat.

While it will never be known who would have challenged Markey if he decided in the first place to seek reelection, an open US House seat in a heavily Democratic district was, understandably, a great temptation for at least four would-be congressmen.

Two of the four original Seventh District aspirants - state Reps. Michael J. McGlynn (D) of Medford and Nicholas A. Paleologos (D) of Woburn - speedily shifted gears after Markey's unexpected May 1 announcement and, instead, are running for reelection to the Massachusetts legislature.

State Rep. Michael J. Barrett (D) of Reading and former state Sen. Samuel Rotondi (D) of Winchester, however, have decided not to back off. As a result, the Democratic voters of the Markey district will have a choice, for the first time since he won the congressional seat in 1976, over who they want their party's nominee to be.

If Massachusetts had a law preventing candidates from circulating nomination papers for more than one office in the same election, Markey would have been forced to stick with his senatorial campaign or to retreat quietly to the political sidelines. And Representatives McGlynn and Paleologos, too, would not have had to scurry around at the last minute to collect the needed 150 Democratic voter signatures to run for reelection to the state legislature.