Markey move spotlights problems of running for two offices in the same election
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In fairness to Markey and the others, what they did was not only legal but also not terribly unusual.Skip to next paragraph
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Keeping all political options open for as long as possible is a common practice among officeholders, especially those eyeing a move to a higher seat.
At least two factors appeared to have contributed to the congressman's decision to quit the Senate race:
First: his second-place but none-too-impressive position, behind Lt. Gov. John F. Kerry, among Democratic senatorial candidates in a recent Becker Institute voter preference sampling.
Second: his failure to come close to US Rep. James M. Shannon, a fellow liberal seeking the Tsongas seat, on any of four endorsement ballots at the April 28 convention of Citizens for Participation in Political Action.
That group, comprised largely of political liberals, is heavily committed to a broad range of issues including the nuclear weapons freeze, a cause for which Markey has been in the forefront in Congress.
Several other incumbents in various state and federal offices this year, as in the past, have had nomination papers in circulation for two elective posts at the same time, or at least in the same campaign.
Since it is possible for a candidate to run for only one seat on the same ballot, a decision must be made before the filing deadline - 5 p.m. May 1 for the state legislature, and the same hour a week later for Congress and the US Senate.
If political aspirants were allowed to pursue only one office at a time, there would be less of an early rush to take out nomination papers - and, quite possibly, greater care in deciding what to do.
In his zeal to upstage potential foes for the Tsongas senatorial seat, Markey made his move two days after the incumbent's unexpected retirement announcement.
If it were legally impossible for the Seventh District congressman to retreat to a reelection bid for that seat (should he later choose not to compete for the Senate nomination), he just might have shied away from even a short-lived campaign for the higher office.
This surely would have spared Markey from last week's embarrassing move - one that has done nothing to endear him to some members of his party or voters and contributors who were supporting his Senate candidacy.
Some state lawmakers, at least those who have circulated nomination papers for different offices as recently as this spring, may be reluctant to consider legislation to restrict this practice. Yet, why should an officeholder be able to wait, sizing up the competition, before embarking on a candidacy that may be abandoned - if the going later looks too tough - for a move in another elective direction?
This is not to suggest that an aspirant for any political office should be forced to stay in the race if, as apparently in Markey's case, he or she concludes prospects for victory are unpromising. At the same time, it is questionable whether, having made the decision to move up, a candidate will find it desirable to make an 11th-hour retreat to another seat.
If Massachusetts lawmakers should prove unwilling to restrict candidate mobility in this way, it might make sense to change the dates for filing nomination papers. In this way, those running for higher office would have to file their support-signatures at the same time, not a week or more later, as aspirants for lower rungs on the elective ladder.
If such an arrangement were now in effect, those in the race for the Seventh District seat would have had more time to decide what they wanted to do after Markey's last-minute move back in their direction.