Q&A #2: Fight For Markey’s Seat

“Face The Deer” asks:

“How about an annotated ranking of the MA5 special?”

Well, how about one.

1) Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian. Special K looks mighty powerful with the field split the way it currently looks. He’s raising money, he’s putting together a very strong campaign team, and he’s always had the look and demeanor of a big-time candidate. Insiders I talk to are increasingly of the opinion that it’s his to lose, and while I don’t think he’s a huge favorite, I agree he’s most likely.

2) State Senator Katherine Clark. Did you feel that tsunami of excitement when Martha Coakley endorsed her last weekend? No? Me neither. Clark’s problem is not just that Karen Spilka divides the women’s vote; Spilka also locks down the most obviously rich targets for Clark outside her geographic base, in the lush-lawned suburbs of MetroWest. Can Clark resonate in the grittier, working-class towns on the eastern edge of the district, like Revere and Winthrop? People I speak with are skeptical. Nevertheless, Clark remains a top-notch, well-funded candidate who many consider the favorite.

3) State Senator Karen Spilka. Spilka may be furthest removed geographically from those unclaimed eastern territories, but some argue to me that she’s the one most likely to win those communities over. Spilka might not be the slickest pol, but she’s awfully likable, and I think if Clark stumbles Spilka might be able to take advantage.

4) State Senator Will Brownsberger. I feel odd ranking him fourth, when I really think he has a good chance to win — I really don’t think there’s that much separating first and fourth on this list. Brownsberger is raising good money and putting together a good team — and, despite many first impressions of him as a gangly nerd representing wealthy Belmont, I learned in his special senate election that Brownsberger is very appealing to a pretty wide range of voters. If Koutoujian fails to impress, Brownsberger has some voter-rich towns in the crook of the district to draw from.

5) State Representative Carl Sciortino. Again, fifth doesn’t mean long-shot in this race. Sciortino has a solid army of progressive volunteers, a very strong fundraising operation, and the ability to win progressive voters in every part of the district. I don’t see how those votes add up to victory very easily — but bear in mind, with four other strong candidates, he doesn’t need anywhere close to 50%+1 to win. Definitely not to be taken lightly.

  • Rob

    David, I think you’re not giving enough weight to the make up of that district. It’s a Democratic primary, heavily left-leaning as we know. Re-districting added half of Cambridge to it, which a lot of people do not realize. The areas that usually turn out the highest in a special are in the eastern portion – Medford, Cambridge, Malden, and Arlington – because they have the most activists. That is Sciortino territory. The others are going to hold serve in their geographic bases but will split a lot of votes there (as you alluded to in “the crook” with Koutoujian and Brownsberger) and may not have enough critical mass. I realize placing Sciortino 5th wasn’t saying he’s a long shot but still. This could be a repeat of how Capuano got elected back to replace JKII – his base just has the most votes in that primary.

    • Pablo Arlington

      Rob is right that the central part of the district generates the most votes in a primary, even more so in a special election primary. Cambridge and Arlington are the key communities, with Lexington and Belmont being in the second tier of towns.

      Rob is wrong in stating that Arlington is Sciortino territory. As I look at Arlington, the activists and elected officials are dividing up between Brownsberger and Clark. Clark has the Coakley machine working for her; Brownsberger was well regarded as a state rep when he represented East Arlington. Brownsberger is well regarded in LGBT community, and Arlington LGBT political leaders are lining up behind Brownsberger (not a good sign for Sciortino). Brownsberger formerly represented Cambridge in the house and senate, has Belmont locked up, and he grew up in Watertown.

      Sciortino is very well regarded in Medford, and should do well there, but half of his rep district is in Somerville (not in the congressional district) so he doesn’t have a broad base. Clark represents Malden in the state senate, which puts Sciortino at a disadvantage in Ed Markey’s home town.

      Spilka is the only candidate from west of 128, but Framingham is the only big primary town in the western part of the district. She also got a late start. She will draw votes from Clark, but I don’t think she can win the primary.

      Peter Koutoujian will have a ton of money, and a ton of sheriff-type volunteers, but it’s tough to move from an administrative post like sheriff to a policy oriented seat. He will take Waltham, hurt Brownsberger in Watertown, but won’t gain enogh traction to win a primary that attracts an issues-oriented progressive voter base. Similar to Spilka, Koutoujian got in late and many activists were committed elsewhere before he jumped in the race.

      I agree with David, it’s very close and the range from first to fifth is very tight, but I am handicapping it as follows:

      1. Clark
      2. Brownsberger
      3. Koutoujian
      4. Spilka
      5. Sciortino

  • Dave

    One thing to think about is that Spilka is raking up the labor support which is key in a MA Dem primary