Katherine Clark Makes Winning a Congressional Primary Look Easy
Katherine Clark made it look easy on Tuesday with a resounding 10-point win in the Democratic primary for the 5th congressional district. She racked up big numbers in her home territories; won battlegrounds such as Arlington, Lexington, and Cambridge outright; and scored second-place finishes on opponents’ turf such as Medford, Natick, and Waltham. Just six years after first becoming a state representative, Clark is on her way to Washington.
Well, she will be in December, after the formality of the general election. She should coast to victory over Frank Addivinola, who drew an impressive 49 percent in the low-turnout Republican primary—humiliating the Scott Brown-endorsed Mike Stopa by a stunning 23 points.
Clark, incidentally, has gained promotions to state representative, state senator, and now US congresswoman all via special election. This one may have looked easy in the end, but it was a dogfight throughout. Clark had to drop $250,000 of her own money into the campaign, and got by far the most outside help, with an EMILY’s List SuperPAC spending close to $150,000 for her. (Cut to Charlotte Golar Richie: “Hey, where was that for ME???”) That included the two notorious late mail pieces strongly implying (in the view of many, including me) that US Senator Elizabeth Warren had endorsed Clark.
Conveniently, we learned just today, via the SuperPAC’s monthly campaign-finance report, where some of the money for those mailings came from. Turns out Cambridge philanthropist/promoter-of-women-pols Barbara Lee contributed $50,000 at the end of September; other local-area women, Shanti Fry, Georgia Murray, Elizabeth Pettullo, and Francene Rodgers, combined for another $30,000 last month. Contributions made in October won’t be known for a while yet.
Clark may also have been helped by her formidable (but somewhat rudderless) competitors. Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian fared well, but never seemed to find a distinguishing message—and insisted on playing nice throughout the campaign, which is admirable but not always advisable. Carl Sciortino, who came in as the longest shot of the five officeholders in the race, did a good enough job staking out the furthest left ground to eke out third place; his campaign sometimes seemed more like a MSNBC audition reel than a genuine attempt to win the office. Will Brownsberger, who is an interesting but sometimes off-putting brand of suburban progressivism, couldn’t win many converts outside his home district. And Karen Spilka, by finishing fifth, may have cut off her avenues to higher office, at a time when she seems to have also burned one too many bridges on the road to state senate leadership.
But take nothing away from Clark, who ran a good campaign and will now be rewarded with entry to the most awful place on earth: the United States House of Representatives. If she’s real lucky, she’ll get there just in time for the next government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis after the current one gets punted a couple of months down the road.