Lynch meets setbacks in Mass. Senate bid

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) is facing an ever-steeper path to the Democratic nomination for Senate in Massachusetts following the decisions of several political power brokers in the state to stay silent rather than offer him support. 

But Lynch’s campaign insists the candidate remains viable as the race begins in earnest ahead of the April 30 primary. The lawmaker is launching his first ad of the campaign on Tuesday, in hopes of refocusing the conversation after a series of setbacks. 

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The Boston Herald reported Monday that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) would not be weighing in on the special Senate election, a setback for the underdog Lynch in his fight against Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) for the nomination.

Menino’s endorsement in major campaigns is typically elusive; he did not weigh in on the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race until late in the game, about a month and a half out from Election Day.

But the support of a big-name Massachusetts Democrat like Menino, and the organizational boost in Boston that would come along with it, could offer Lynch some much-needed legitimacy as he faces a difficult fight to win the nomination.

Both Lynch and Markey have actively sought Menino’s endorsement. 

Conor Yunits, spokesman for Lynch’s campaign, says the candidate realizes it would take an “upset” for him to win the primary but the lawmaker isn’t discouraged by the Menino report.

“While Congressman Lynch would obviously love to have the mayor’s support, he understands that we need to earn that endorsement,” Yunits said.  

“The campaign is working every day to strengthen our organization and build our base, to show Mayor Menino and others that we can pull off the upset on April 30.” 

Yunits said that the campaign was not considering the Boston Herald report the final word on Menino’s plans and “had not given up on” a potential last-minute endorsement from the mayor.

Still, word of Menino’s fence-sitting on the Senate race follows a spate of bad news for Lynch in the past two weeks. 

A recent decision by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO not to endorse in the race came as an unwelcome surprise for Lynch, who had been actively lobbying union members for their support.

An endorsement from the AFL-CIO, one of the state’s most prominent unions, would have meant thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and thousands of dedicated boots on the ground for Lynch in the primary.

Lynch faces a deficit in fundraising and in the polls, which the former union leader hoped to make up for with widespread support from Massachusetts unions. 

The AFL-CIO’s decision to remain on the sidelines indicates his support among that group might not be as secure as he’d hoped.

The AFL-CIO’s snub was followed by a Boston Herald poll that put Lynch’s support among registered voters at 21 percent, compared to Markey’s 50 percent support. 

And on Monday, two progressive groups announced their intention to support Markey in the primary. 

Democracy for America endorsed the front-runner — calling him “the only tried and true progressive in the race” — while the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is launching a six-figure canvassing effort for him. 

The League is spending at least $650,000 on the effort, and it plans to knock on the doors of at least 219,000 likely primary voters in Massachusetts. 

The group’s political action committee, LCV Action Fund, endorsed Markey early on in his campaign and has since raised or contributed more than $100,000 to his effort.

Lynch’s failure to shore up valuable support from Menino and the AFL-CIO places more pressure on the underdog candidate to perform well against Markey in six upcoming primary debates.

The Massachusetts Senate seat became open with the resignation last month of Sen. John Kerry (D) to become secretary of State. The special election is set for June 25.