Special Elections Will Test Democrats in Mass., Sanford in S.C.

BY Christina Bellantoni and Katelyn Polantz  April 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM EST

Ed Markey; photo by Freddy Wheeler/WEBN-TV via Flickr

Rep. Ed Markey faces Rep. Stephen Lynch in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Photo by Freddy Wheeler/WEBN-TV via Flickr.

The Morning Line

Six months ago, Massachusetts voters were in the middle of one of the fiercest Senate battles of the election season. They ousted Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who had surprised the nation and delighted the tea party, in a January 2010 special election that temporarily put the brakes on a health care reform bill on Capitol Hill.

When President Barack Obama chose then-Sen. John Kerry to be his new secretary of state, it at first seemed like Massachusetts residents would be in for another wild ride. But Brown opted against another bid.

The action in the strongly Democratic state is happening in Tuesday’s primary.

Two members of the Bay State’s all-Democratic congressional delegation are facing off, with Rep. Ed Markey favored to defeat Rep. Stephen Lynch. When he stepped forward with a bid, Markey got a wave of Democratic endorsements, including from members of the Kennedy family. He also had a fundraising advantage.


The Boston Marathon bombings dramatically reshaped the last few weeks, forcing the candidates to suspend campaigning and pulling even more attention away from what was already looking to be a low-turnout contest. Officials expect 550,000 people will turn out for the Democratic primary and 200,000 for the Republican primary.

Lynch raised his profile over the last few weeks, joining authorities at news conferences related to the bombings and investigation, but on Monday he scrapped his final campaign appearances due to a stomach bug.

The GOP side is anyone’s guess, with a competitive race between businessman Gabriel Gomez, state Rep. Dan Winslow and the former ATF acting director Michael Sullivan.

Sullivan is the favorite of tea party groups but is seen as less electable than Gomez or Winslow. Gomez made headlines by asking Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint him to replace Kerry and promising he wouldn’t run in the special election if he got the job. (Patrick chose William “Mo” Cowan instead. We profiled Cowan here.)

The race has attracted $2.2 million in outside spending, the Associated Press reported.

Christina recently spoke with WGBH’s Adam Reilly and MassINC Polling Group’s Steve Koczela about the field on both sides. Watch that conversation, which took place before the bombings altered the race, here.

Politico has five things to watch in Tuesday’s primaries.

The Boston Globe sets the scene by noting the competition lies fully in the Republican contest. There’s still plenty of time for a Republican comeback ahead of the June 25 special election. But the Democrats are favored here to keep Kerry’s seat in their column.

In another twist, a race that should never have been competitive has turned into an all-out slugfest in South Carolina. Here’s a little primer on next Tuesday’s contest:

When GOP Gov. Nikki Haley selected then-Rep. Tim Scott to fill retiring Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat last winter, Republicans were confident the 1st Congressional District would remain in its column when voters chose a replacement. When former GOP Gov. Mark Sanford jumped into the race to reclaim the seat he once held, it at first seemed as if he’d face a difficult primary. But Sanford cleared the field easily in a runoff.

On the Democratic side, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a non-politician and administrator at the Clemson University Restoration Institute, had little chance to win over the conservatives in the coastal district. She had celebrity ties, and her brother, comedian Stephen Colbert, got his pals to host fundraisers on her behalf. She also attracted national attention and plenty of free publicity.

But things went south for Sanford when his ex-wife, Jenny, declined to help with his campaign or endorse him. And it got worse when she accused him of trespassing on her property. Republican campaign officials responded by opting against spending any more money on the race. And Democrats are spending more to try and flip this Republican seat.

Since then, the campaign has gotten nastier.

In their only debate of the election Monday night, Sanford and Busch sparred over spending. Busch even zinged Sanford about his 2009 trip to Argentina to meet his mistress — the same trip he had claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and that contributed to the end of his marriage.

“When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn’t mean you take the money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose,” she said.

“She went there, governor,” one of the moderators said. Sanford didn’t respond.

And Politico noticed a website bought a billboard using Sanford’s affair to sell its services.

Tuesday’s Massachusetts contest has little of the drama of South Carolina’s election next week, but both serve as reminders that in politics, the road ahead is often unpredictable.

DAILY DOWNLOAD

On Monday, Christina spoke with Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of the Daily Download about the implications of last week’s Associated Press Twitter hack, which sent the stock market tumbling and news organizations’ tech teams soul-searching.

“This is a black eye for Twitter, no question about it, even though it wasn’t Twitter’s fault,” Kurtz said.

The hack occurred April 23 just after 1 p.m. ET, not long after AP staff received a phishing email masked to look like it was from a colleague. Hackers broke into the news organization’s Twitter feed, and from it announced that explosions at the White House had injured President Obama. The AP corrected the tweet with this tweet at 1:25 p.m. ET, and the stock markets recovered by 1:45 ET. NPR reported the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

The incident may have flown by in under an hour, but it raised questions about how news organizations should gird themselves from future attacks. USA Today spoke with journalism scholars on how news organizations should shore up online security. National Journal pointed out that companies should test employees’ ability to recognize phishing email.

In short, teaching adults not to fall prey to spam links and account phishing is similar to teaching children not to talk to strangers. A developer created a page called “Is my Twitter password secure,” one of the funniest and simplest ways to teach people how not to get phished.

That’s not all — Twitter is working on its login design to add a two-step process when a user tries to enter from a new device, Ashburn pointed out.

All of this heightened vigilance is shaded by a busy month in online security news. The Securities and Exchange Commission opened up social media platforms as ways traders can get information from companies, and the Bloomberg Terminal, the omnipotent trading platform on Wall Street, added tweets to its data service. Last week, Reuters fired well-known social media editor Matthew Keys, who later appeared in court to plead not guilty to charges he helped Anonymous hack Tribune Company sites.

Kurtz noted that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission meets Tuesday with “a couple of dozen high-frequency traders to discuss whether there should be additional safeguards to protect against the effects of social media on markets,” according to the New York Times.

Watch the Daily Download segment here or below:

LINE ITEMS

  • Best friends Jim DeMint and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., now seem at odds over Rubio’s position on immigration, the New York Times reports.

  • Texas GOP Rep. Sam Johnson: an unlikely immigration reform negotiator. And Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs in.

  • Mr. Obama’s advocacy for campaign finance reform has lagged since the White House has failed to make appointments to election-related leadership positions, the Washington Post notes.

  • The FBI is interviewing “associates” of Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family about his cozy relationship with major donor and Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams.

  • Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s wife stars in the first statewide political ad of the gubernatorial race.

  • Democratic Rep. Gary Peters will run for the Michigan Senate seat that will be left vacant by retiring Sen. Carl Levin.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday it’s not wrong for Virginia to limit its Freedom of Information policies to in-state residents.

  • The Supreme Court chose not to hear a case in which Alabama would have defended its controversial immigration law.

  • The AP’s Thomas Beaumont notices the potential problems brewing for Republicans in Senate primaries in West Virginia and Georgia.

  • Authorities said Monday a white powder was found in a letter sent to the office of Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York. It later tested negative for harmful substances.

  • Two Democrat representatives believe legalizing marijuana could help cut the federal deficit.

  • A New York Post column on Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s intentions for 2016 forced him Monday to address whether he’ll run for president. He says Hillary Clinton’s decision on entering the race will have no bearing on his own.

  • Joshua Dubois for the Daily Beast dispels the myth that Washington is a godless place by examining the spiritual sides of a number of people in power.

  • Oh, Joe! Vice President Joe Biden told Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at an event last weekend that he would do anything to help Graham win re-election in 2014. That includes campaigning for him, or against him: “I assure you I will rip your skin off for you, and I expect a thank-you note.”

  • Second thoughts on Bush v. Gore? Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’”

  • San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is looking to boost his city’s joint 2024 Summer Olympics bid with Tijuana, Mexico. So he’s calling in Mitt Romney.

  • Sarah Palin could run for U.S. Senate, or at least the Tea Party Leadership Fund is attempting to draft Alaska’s former governor to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in 2014. “Do the words ‘Senator Sarah Palin’ excite you? If we do our job, they could become reality,” writes Todd Cefaratti in an email to supporters. “As Karl Rove and the ‘Republican’ campaign establishment prepare to spend hundreds of millions defeating the Tea Party in primaries next fall, campaign insiders know what they’re really afraid of–they’re not afraid of gaffes, they’re not afraid of weak candidates, and they’re not afraid of losing.”

  • $23,646. That’s the taxpayer cost of a multi-country trip taken by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, according to Roll Call.

  • Libertarian Darryl W. Perry is “pledging to be the first White House hopeful to accept Bitcoin, the online currency currently en vogue in tech and libertarian circles.”

  • If you enjoy using a computer, take a moment and thank the late Kenneth Appel.

  • The Netherlands has a new monarch after Queen Beatrix abdicated to pass power to her 46-year-old son, Willem-Alexander.

  • We’ve heard George Washington’s Mount Vernon will make a special appearance on the “Amazing Race” season finale this Sunday.

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Politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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