It's a matter of political decorum: when an officeholder is running for higher office, you wait until the election has been won before publicly coveting the resulting vacancy. Sure, you can make moves and have private conversations, but it's considered poor form to breach the flimsy façade of concentrating fully on the election at hand.
Not so, apparently, in the potential race to succeed Congressman Ed Markey, should he defeat fellow US Representative Stephen Lynch and win the special election for John Kerry's old US Senate seat.
The Senate primary is still more than two months away, with the final election in June — hell, Markey hasn't even qualified for the ballot yet. But already, three pols have declared for the hypothetical special election to succeed him, and others are making no secret of their interest as well.
Carl Sciortino, state representative from Medford and a favorite of young progressives, has announced his candidacy and started raising money into a federal campaign account.
State Senator William Brownsberger of Belmont has also opened a federal account and established a placeholder web page. "We want to make sure, job one, Ed Markey gets elected," Brownsberger says. "If he does get elected, I will run for the seat."
And State Senator Katherine Clark of Melrose opened a federal account and declared her own candidacy this past Friday.
All three are working diligently on behalf of Markey's Senate campaign. Nevertheless, some are not pleased. In an open letter to fellow Democrats last week, Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung — who is interested in running too — deplored the "dangerous endeavor" of launching campaigns before getting Markey elected.
"Out of respect and deference for Ed Markey, I just think it's poor form to declare right now," agrees Kathi-Anne Reinstein, state representative from Revere — who is also "definitely taking a look at it." (Her father was in the crowded field for the seat when Markey won in 1976.)
But the reason for the early start is easy to understand: if the special election happens, it will be a rapid, expensive fight among many strong candidates. Waiting for the starting gun means starting from behind, with little time to make up the distance.
Markey's district includes all or part of 24 municipalities, including Malden, Stoneham, Woburn, Lexington, Cambridge, Arlington, Watertown, Waltham, Lincoln, Framingham, and Natick. That's a lot of territory, and a lot of discrete voting communities, each with its own political stars built up behind the 36-year log jam caused by Markey's hold on the congressional seat.
Those assessing the race expect candidates to need between $1 million and $2 million for the primary, which would likely be held in October. (The general election should not be close in the heavily Democratic-leaning district.)
In addition to Sciortino, Brownsberger, Clark, Cheung, and Reinstein, State Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland tells me "I am seriously interested."
Others said to be interested include Wayland State Representative Tom Conroy, Cambridge State Representative Sean Garballey, Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprelian, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, Middlesex District Attorney Gerald Leone, Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn, and Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo.
Oh, and perhaps State Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lives in Medford, or former state senator Warren Tolman of Watertown — or any of the district's who's-who of current and former pols, administration officials, and business leaders.
With the first candidates already out raising money and soliciting support, it will only get harder for the rest of the potential field to sit on the sidelines. Decorum be damned; this (hypothetical) race in on.
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