BOSTON -- Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Stephen Lynch tried to shift the focus of the special election campaign to the economic plight of the poor and middle class Wednesday, addressing a gathering of union workers in downtown Boston.
Lynch said that despite rising stock prices, many people are struggling to make ends meet. He said the improving economy is masking what he calls an "inequality of opportunity" for people looking for work.
"We have a new problem in this country, but it’s got an old name: poverty," Lynch said.
Lynch said the country is facing "two-way poverty" targeting those who are poor and unable to find a job and those in the middle class fearful of losing their jobs and sliding into poverty.
Lynch, a former ironworker, said if elected he will bring the concerns of ordinary workers to the Senate floor.
"At least one U.S. senator should be able to say I worked for a living. I strapped on a pair of work boots every day," Lynch said. "We have never had someone stand in the U.S. Senate on our behalf. Now we have a chance."
Lynch and fellow Congressman Edward Markey are facing each other in the Democratic primary April 30.
Markey’s first two television ads have focused on his advocacy for tougher gun laws and his role in holding BP responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Lynch and Markey have both received the backing of unions. The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest union, has backed Markey while Lynch has won the backing of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Also Wednesday, the Republican Senate candidates ratcheted up their criticism of each other as they sparred over ads funded by an out-of-state group on behalf of GOP Senate hopeful Michael Sullivan.
The radio and television ads by the Conservative Campaign Committee are aimed at helping Sullivan defeat fellow Republicans Gabriel Gomez and Daniel Winslow.
In a written statement, Gomez said Sullivan should either "disavow the statements from this extreme group and demand that they take their attack ads elsewhere, or Sullivan should man up and deliver these attacks himself."
Winslow also faulted Sullivan for not speaking out against the ads.
"This is a group that has been preaching intolerance, a hate group if you will," Winslow said. "It’s unacceptable in Massachusetts. I’ve called on Mike Sullivan to disavow this group."
In an Internet posting, the group’s leader Lloyd Marcus says he has "dear friends and beloved relatives who are homosexual," while also criticizing gay activists as "outrageously aggressive" and conducting a "Homosexuality is Normal Movement" that he describes as "extremely dangerous."
"The Homosexuality is Normal Movement is not passive well-meaning victims simply seeking tolerance and their place in the sun," Marcus wrote. "They are relentless ... and hell bent on forcing all of us, particularly Christians, to say their behavior is normal."
Sullivan has said he’s not familiar with Marcus or his group.
Sullivan campaign spokesman Paul Moore returned the criticism Wednesday, saying Winslow "has spent weeks trying to divide pro-life and pro-choice Republicans for his own opportunistic benefit."
Moore also criticized Gomez for sending a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick in January asking that he appoint him to the Senate seat on an interim basis. In the letter Gomez pledged to support President Barack Obama’s positions on guns and immigration.
Gomez has since taken positions at odds with Obama, including saying he’s opposed to an assault weapons ban.
Moore said the letter makes Gomez a "tough sell in a Republican primary."
Also Wednesday, Sullivan announced his campaign has hired Beth Myers, a senior adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign for president and campaign manager for his 2008 run, and Peter Flaherty, a former deputy chief of staff for Romney and senior adviser for former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s special election and re-election campaigns.
The primaries are April 30. The special election is June 25.