Candidates make final push for Markey seat
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
In a suburban swath of Eastern Massachusetts, seven Democrats and three Republicans made a final, frenetic push on Monday to join one of the most unpopular organizations in the country: Congress.
The 10 candidates vying to succeed Edward J. Markey in the US House of Representatives made their closing appeals, before voters head to the polls Tuesday for the special primary election in the Fifth Congressional District, which includes all or part of 24 cities and towns to the north and west of Boston.
But Capitol Hill’s seemingly implacable gridlock, vividly illustrated by a partial shutdown of the federal government and a potential default on the country’s debt, cast a long shadow over the parade-marching, hand-shaking, and door knocking that marked the final push.
In such a heavily Democratic district, that party’s nominee is favored to win the Dec. 10 special general election, but some Democratic voters on Monday said their decision would come down to who could best stick to their values while also navigating a bitterly partisan Washington, D.C.
Aimee Coolidge, chairwoman of the Arlington Democratic Town Committee, said she had not made up her mind for whom she would vote, but explained her choice Tuesday would be driven by who she believed would both “represent a progressive voice” and be most effective for the district in a divided legislative body.
“Nobody is going to go down there and change things,” she said. But “you need somebody who has the skill set to go down there and effectively navigate that dysfunction.”
Tom Diaz, a Lexington Democrat, said he sees the current Capitol Hill troubles as driven by Republicans. And that’s “all the more reason to vote for a solidly progressive candidate,” he said, adding that he would cast his ballot for state Representative Carl M. Sciortino.
Sciortino has positioned himself to the left of his Democratic rivals over the course of his campaign, and underlined his liberal credentials in a short interview at his campaign office in his hometown of Medford between calls to voters.
He said the partial government shutdown highlights why “we need strong, consistent, progressive voices from this district.”
“We don’t just need someone who calls themselves progressive because they’re running for office, but actually lives that out in their work every day,” he said.
Among the many events he attended over a day of campaigning, Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian greeted voters at diners in Woburn and Arlington, knocked on doors in his hometown of Waltham and thanked and rallied supporters at a morning house party in Stoneham, where he exhorted them to campaign hard and “leave it all on the field.”
In his many interactions with voters, he said Monday evening, he heard about the real-world impact of Capitol Hill strife, having chatted with people who have been furloughed by the federal government.
Koutoujian, a former state legislator who has emphasized his passionate support for expanded gun control measures, said he did not think that Democrats shared in the blame for the shutdown, but he believed that “we all share the responsibility to find a path to get through this.”
State Senator Katherine Clark, surrounded by volunteers at a Knights of Columbus hall in her hometown of Melrose, called Congress’s growing gridlock “disheartening.”
Clark, who has made women’s and family issues a centerpiece of her campaign, said while she hoped to find areas for bipartisan agreement, the events of recent weeks in Washington have steeled her to stand firm against the more conservative elements of the GOP.
“It has also really strengthened my resolve,” Clark said, “that we need to hold strong, stand up to the extremists who are saying, ‘Let’s hold our economy hostage.’ ”
After marching in Revere’s Columbus Day Parade, state Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland, who has framed herself as a successful legislator who gets results, bemoaned “the Tea Party Republicans [who] are holding the government hostage.”
“We need people who can fight and get results even more than ever before,” she said, noting her background as a social worker and a mediator.
State Senator Will Brownsberger, whose campaign has partially pivoted on his willingness to take positions outside the Democratic orthodoxy in order to help break the D.C. gridlock, eschewed standard day-before-election campaign activity Monday, instead grabbing a saw and a measuring tape. Brownsberger worked to help rebuild a playground in his hometown of Belmont.
The gridlock in Washington over the last few months has reinforced why he got in the race, he said.
“I started this campaign because I was deeply dissatisfied with the tone of politics in Washington, and the tone has only gotten worse,” he said.
“Now really is the time for . . . someone who is not going to be about reinforcing the divisions, but about looking for commonality and looking for a way through,” he added.
Also running in the Democratic primary are Martin Long, an Arlington author, and Stoneham resident Paul John Maisano, who works in the construction industry.
The three Republicans vying for their party’s nod on Tuesday worked the district at events and in calls to potential voters as well on Monday. They are: Harvard nanophysics researcher Mike Stopa of Holliston; businessman and lawyer Frank J. Addivinola Jr. of Boston; and actuary Tom Tierney of Framingham.
Polls are open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.