Boston bombings a wild card in Massachusetts Senate primary today

Ed Markey leads heading into Tuesday's Massachusetts Senate primary, but Stephen Lynch hopes to gain ground by attacking Markey's record on security, especially after the Boston bombings.

Barry Chin/Boston Globe/AP
Democratic US Senate candidates, US Reps. Stephen Lynch (l.) and Edward Markey, debate at WBZ studios in Boston on April 22.

Massachusetts voters are casting ballots Tuesday in a special-election primary race for the US Senate seat vacated recently by John Kerry.

Polling before the vote suggests that the winner of the Democratic primary – which pits Rep. Ed Markey against Rep. Stephen Lynch – will be the heavy favorite heading into a June 25 final election for the seat.

In the polls, Representative Markey is a solid front-runner, although the vital question Tuesday will be how many voters turn out, and what types of voters they are. 

Typically, special-election primaries are low-turnout affairs. The recent Boston Marathon bombings threw a last-minute wild card into the race, shifting attention away from the campaign trail but also bringing questions of national security into the forefront.

Against that backdrop, Representative Lynch used a recent debate to jab at Markey’s credentials on security and defense – and throughout the race Lynch has cast himself as a politically moderate ally of blue-collar workers.

“Significant turnout among registered Democrats plays to Markey’s strength, while increased participation among unenrolled voters gives Lynch a boost,” said pollster Tim Vercellotti in a statement, as he released recent poll results from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The survey, conducted from April 11 to 18, found that Markey leads Lynch with a 10 point edge (44 percent to 34 percent) in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Another recent survey, a Suffolk University/7NEWS poll, also shows Markey with a solid edge heading into the Tuesday vote. The seat became open late last year, as President Obama tapped Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts to be his secretary of State.

Should Lynch stage an upset win, he would actually be the Democratic Party’s stronger candidate for the general election, because of his appeal with the state’s independent voters, the Western New England University Polling Institute found in its poll, done in partnership with several news organizations.

Markey would start the general-election campaign leading potential Republican rivals by 15 to 19 percentage points. Lynch’s lead against the Republican field stands at 32 to 36 points.

On the Republican side, the primary vote on Tuesday is a three-way choice: former US District Attorney Michael Sullivan, former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, and state Rep. Daniel Winslow.

Polls find a tight race between Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Gomez, a private-equity investor who may have gathered some home-stretch momentum.

Where Markey has been endorsed by many of the state’s top political leaders and by some prominent newspapers, including The Boston Globe, Lynch has enthusiastic support from some labor unions.

In their recent debate, Lynch painted Markey as inattentive to US security needs, citing a vote against creating the Joint Terrorism Task Force which combines the resources of various law enforcement agencies. The task force worked with the FBI to investigate the recent marathon terror attack.

Markey responded by pointing to security measures he supported or authored, such as efforts to enhance cargo screening in ports.

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