When Massachusetts Democrats go to the polls on Tuesday, they will choose between a pair of candidates competing in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
The seat, which was left vacant when Sen. John Kerry resigned to become U.S. secretary of state, is currently held by interim Sen. William ‘Mo’ Cowan, who was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick to serve until a special election is held June 25.
The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican contest between Gabriel Gomez, Michael Sullivan and Daniel Winslow.
Massachusetts has a mixed primary system: Registered Republicans and Democrats may only vote for candidates in their own party, but independent or unenrolled voters may choose any candidate, regardless of party.
Here are profiles of the two Democrats who appear on Tuesday’s ballot.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a onetime ironworker, nearly always makes a point of his blue-collar roots while campaigning for the U.S. Senate.
By far the most conservative of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation -- his votes against President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and the federal financial reform law rankled many in the party -- Lynch, 58, is hoping his gritty life story will resonate with working-class voters and propel him to an upset victory in the special election to fill Secretary of State John Kerry’s former seat.
His opponent in Tuesday’s primary, fellow U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, is favored by Kerry and backed by large segments of the Democratic political establishment in Massachusetts.
In 2010, Republican Scott Brown, with his now-famous barn jacket and green pickup truck, connected with middle-class voters in a similar way during his successful campaign to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Lynch takes the everyman theme even further and, in a gentle jab at Brown, points out that he not only drove a pickup for much of his working life but also tossed a pair of real workboots in the back.
"My dad used to say, ‘There were times that we had to save up to be poor,’ " Lynch said in an Associated Press interview, recalling his childhood at the Old Colony housing project in the largely white, Irish-Catholic South Boston neighborhood.
"We had nothing," he continued, and few in the neighborhood had more. It was a tough and unsheltered upbringing. He would later lose a cousin to gun violence in another housing project.
Lynch’s father was an ironworker and from a young age it became evident that would be Lynch’s path in life as well. By high school, he was helping out at construction sites.
"They put me in there when I was just a kid. I loved it," he said. Over the next two decades, Lynch would work on countless jobs, not only in Boston but around the country.
But the lifestyle had its drawbacks.
"You work hard and you play hard," he said. "Everybody piles into the pub after work and that became a habit."
By his early 20s, he had a drinking problem. The decisions and events that followed would shape his future.
While on a project in Wisconsin that had shut down because of a blizzard, he recalled, a woman he was dating noted that Lynch enjoyed reading and suggested he take classes at a local college. He did, quickly realizing how hard it was to study after a few beers.
"I stopped doing it. I stopped drinking," he said. Three years later, he was elected to the board of his union, Iron Workers Local 7, and would rise to become its president.
"Once people see that you’re sober, and you’re serious, and you’re motivated, they focus on you as a potential leader," he said.
While doing pro bono legal work at the housing project where he grew up, residents would encourage him to run for public office, he said. He won a seat in the state House of Representatives in 1995 and just 14 months later ran in a special election to succeed the powerful state Sen. William Bulger, who had resigned to become president of the University of Massachusetts.
After a campaign he described as a "civil war," Lynch defeated Bulger’s son, William Bulger Jr.
"There are some sharp elbows in South Boston politics," he explained, a hint of understatement in his voice.
Lynch entered -- and won -- another special election in 2001, this time to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley. It didn’t hurt that two of Lynch’s uncles had helped Moakley win a political office decades earlier, giving Lynch a leg up with the late congressman’s family, he said.
But in the current Senate campaign, Lynch has struggled to gain name recognition outside of his Boston stronghold, making more difficult the task of defeating a better-financed candidate in Markey who appears more in step with core liberal Democrats likely to vote in Tuesday’s primary.
Lynch has sought to reassure Democrats of his credentials. He identifies himself as "pro-life," but promises not to seek changes in abortion rights laws. He also insists his record on environmental issues is on par with Markey, though a group led by a wealthy California environmental activist has dogged Lynch over his past support for the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada.
Lynch’s best hope seems to lie with the labor vote, conservative-leaning Democrats and independents.
"If I can just get to those people and let them know who I am, what I’m about, I can win," he said.
As a teenager growing up in Massachusetts in the early 1960s, Edward Markey remembered hearing how John F. Kennedy was too Irish, too Catholic and too much a product of Boston politics to be elected president.
For Markey, an Irish Catholic kid from Malden, Kennedy’s victory was both a triumph and an inspiration.
"In his inaugural address, he said that public service was an opportunity to do God’s work here on Earth," Markey said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "He not only inspired me but inspired a whole generation to think of public service."
Markey came from humble roots. His father drove a truck for the Hood Milk Co. Markey, who would be the first in his family to go to college, attended Malden Catholic High School and helped pay his way through Boston College by driving an ice cream truck.
Markey was in his third year at Boston College Law School when he decided to plunge into politics by challenging a longtime Democratic state representative.
"I was a much more liberal Democrat than the incumbent, and I think that made a big difference," Markey said. "There was a changing of the guard that was taking place not just in Massachusetts but across the country, and I was part of that."
Markey’s stint at the Statehouse was relatively brief. He was elected in 1972 and sworn in the following January. But he would make good use of his time, positioning himself against a top Democratic powerbroker.
Markey was assigned to the Judiciary Committee and soon set his sights on ending a system that allowed Massachusetts judges to maintain private law practices while serving on the bench.
"The system was loaded with built-in conflicts of interest," Markey said.
He pulled together support for a bill that would abolish the system and give dozens of judges with law practices three years to choose between being full-time judges or full-time lawyers.
Despite the opposition of the powerful house speaker at the time, Thomas McGee, Markey’s bill was approved and in early 1976 it was signed into law by former Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Markey would pay a political price, at least temporarily.
When McGee announced Markey was no longer on the committee, Markey and his backers responded by holding a press conference which further irked the House leader.
"Overnight we got a call to say that my desk was no longer in the Judiciary Committee, that they shoved it out into the hall," Markey said.
Markey, who by then was running for Congress, seized the opportunity. He launched a campaign ad that showed him standing before his desk in the hallway and using the tagline: "The bosses can tell me where to sit, but nobody tells me where to stand."
Markey took his seat in Congress in 1977 and was assigned to committees overseeing health care and energy by a fellow Massachusetts Democrat -- former U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O’Neill.
For the next three decades, Markey would build a legislative portfolio that included work on energy, telecommunication, national security and the environment.
He wrote legislation to set minimum safety standards for the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas facilities and helped persuade President Bill Clinton to block the importation of inexpensive Chinese semi-automatic assault weapons.
Markey would press for the breakup of the monopoly that AT&T Corp. had on phone service, write legislation to increase competition in the cable television industry and collaborate on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Markey said those efforts help plant the seeds for the innovation revolution that led from rotary phones to smartphones.
Markey also won over environmentalists when he pushed tougher efficiency standards for household appliances and pressed to set goals to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases.
When oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on an offshore rig operated by BP, Markey forced the company to make live video footage of the spill available on a public "Spillcam" website.
"Anybody who knows me knows I take on the tough issues and I get results," he said.
Education: B.S. in construction management, Wentworth Institute of Technology, 1988; J.D. from Boston College Law School, 1991; Masters in Public Administration, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, 1999.
Career: Ironworker from 1972 to 1991; president of the Ironworkers Local 7 union from 1988 to 1991. Elected to the state House of Representatives from the South Boston district in 1994; won a special election to the state Senate in 1996. Served in the Senate until 2001, when he won a special election for the U.S. House to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley.
Family: Lynch lives in South Boston with his wife, Margaret. The couple has a daughter, Victoria.
Education: B.A. from Boston College, 1968; J.D. from Boston College Law School, 1972.
Career: Served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1973 to 1977. Entered Congress in 1977; currently represents the state’s 5th Congressional District. Ranking Democratic member of the Natural Resources Committee. Has served as chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, chairman or ranking Democratic member of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and as a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Family: Lives in Malden with his wife, Susan Blumenthal.