Candidates for Markey’s seat split on Syria action

Among the five elected officials running for the Democratic nomination to succeed Edward J. Markey in the US House of Representatives, only one said today if he were a Congressman, he would oppose authorizing President Obama to use military force in Syria.

In interviews, the four others said they needed more information before taking a hard stance on such a weighty issue, as Obama and Congressional leaders continue to press their case for military action against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

“I believe that military intervention is premature and I would vote no. I believe it has the potential worsen the crisis,” said State Representative Carl M. Sciortino, who has worked to position himself to the left of his fellow candidates running for the Fifth Congressional District.

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While Sciortino did not rule out supporting US military action in Syria in the future, he said it would have to be “a last resort” and that the United States currently had other options besides military force.

Four of his Democratic opponents today declined to take a similarly specific stance, saying it would be premature.

State Senator Karen Spilka said she needed to see the final text of the resolution that would be voted on before taking a position on it.

The US Senate and House of Representatives are expected to vote on the matter next week, though the specific wording and scope of the legislation authorizing force remains unclear.

“The vote isn’t today,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “I believe I owe it to the President and [Secretary of State] John Kerry to keep listening as the information continues to come in.”

“If I were in Congress,” said State Senator Katherine Clark, “I would need some answers to exactly what would be the scope of our military involvement, what contingency plans do we have, what is our exit strategy.”

State Senator Will Brownsberger said he continued to study the Syrian conflict and that Congress has “an obligation to ask a lot of hard questions about the evidence supporting the proposed action and the likely consequences of the proposed action.”

While Members of Congress have been privy to detailed briefings, some classified, about intelligence on Syria, those running for Congress must rely information in the public domain.

After the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad, President Obama said on Saturday he believed the US “should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” But, Obama said, he would seek the authorization of Congress before taking that action. That’s prompted a white-hot debate in Washington, DC and around the country in the subsequent days about whether Congress should give Obama the green light he has requested.

And it’s an issue that’s on the minds of voters in the district, according to Koutoujian. He said going door-to-door in the district as recently as yesterday, people talked to him about the troubled Middle Eastern country.

“Honestly, the very first question that comes up now is the conflict in Syria,” he said.

The Fifth District seat opened after Markey won a US Senate special election this summer. The district’s heavy Democratic tilt means the party’s nominee, set to be chosen on Oct. 15, will be the heavy favorite to win the Dec. 10 special general election.

Along with the five current elected officials, there will be two other candidates on Democratic primary ballot: author Martin Long and Paul John Maisano, who works in the construction industry.