Markey vs. Gomez: Remember the Ladies and Remember the Checkbook

Years ago as a big boxing match approached I heard one of the managers in an interview say “Let’s reminisce about tomorrow night’s fight.” In that spirit, even though there is plenty of voting yet to be done in today’s contest between Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Ed Markey, let’s reminisce about today’s election.

Regular readers of MPP will acknowledge that my colleague Professor Duquette has had this race figured from the beginning: a lot of media hype and framing about the race narrowing, dramatic debates, etc., but no real impact on the Democrats’ relentless advantage in the bluest state. Let me hit some different themes. First you may think you have a choice today but that choice was made for you long ago, by money. Second, we may have seen a parade of white males and one Hispanic male in this race, but as Abigail Adams wrote in 1776, “remember the ladies.”

As to money, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (aka “Party Central Committee”) chose our next senator; we at most get to ratify that decision. Since a generic Democrat will always beat a generic Republican in a statewide Senate race, the ritual is for the Democrats to choose a primary nominee and then await the swearing-in (Prof. Duquette had this right, those with memories of the Brown upset were misled). In 2013 the party establishment picked Markey long before a ballot was printed. The Party Central Committee virtually cleared the field of ambitious Democrats who had been eyeing a primary run. How does the Party Central Committee get this power? Not back rooms, my friends, but foie gras fundraisers: money from lobbyists, real estate and finance, and single interest groups.  Democracy in action!

The one Democrat with the temerity to defy the party’s centralized money machine was Congressman Steve Lynch. As the Boston Herald reported:

“They haven’t been fair,” Lynch said of the national Democrats who he says have funneled donations and some union support Markey’s way. “No they haven’t been fair. I think they’ve done their best to discourage people from sending me contributions from Washington. They’ve basically said Markey’s our guy, don’t give to Lynch.”

But let’s bypass Lynch’s endearing but naïve faith in democracy for a moment to focus on the real reason he lost the primary; it must have been his vote against Obamacare, right? No Democrat could survive such an act of treachery.  Not so fast. In the 2009 special election primary, 75% of Democratic voters cast a ballot for two candidates – Martha Coakley and Mike Capuano – who had pledged to vote against Obamacare. But their reservations were keyed to anti-choice language in the ever-evolving bill. Lynch’s reasons for voting against hinged on cost and labor issues. Lynch did try to edge away from his pro-life history in the primary, but Markey had been a reliable supporter of choice and other women’s issues for many years.

In the general election Congressman Markey has relentlessly pressed his categorical pro-choice position against Gomez’s “I’m pro-life personally but won’t vote to disturb Roe v. Wade but might vote for an anti-Roe Supreme Court nominee” configuration. And as Democrat Elizabeth Warren showed in 2012, the Republican Party advances a number of issues that are anathema to Massachusetts women. Markey will beat Gomez overwhelmingly today among women, a key to victory.

Don’t mess with women in this state; remember the ladies.

And don’t forget to participate meaningfully in the magnificent panorama of American democracy: write a check, a big one.


About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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