Extended election season prompts campus activism for Markey campaign

The special election to fill John Kerrys now-vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts is fast approaching and Tufts Democrats is mobilizing. The group, which enthusiastically campaigned in November for current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and President Barack Obama, has revived the campaign for Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Tufts Democrats, which received a personal visit from Markey yesterday, has taken steps like officially endorsing Markeys campaign and creating the Tufts for Markey branch to support campaign efforts. Markey, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1976, announced his candidacy for the seat in December and is set to run against Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) in the April 30 Democratic primary.

I support Ed Markey because hes a champion in the fight against climate change, junior Jacob Wessel, a campus coordinator for the Markey campaign, said. He has an amazing environmental record. Hes been a progressive champion on issues ranging from gay marriage to a womans right to choose to equal pay. You can run down the list hes always been a fighter for those who are struggling, for helping the people fulfill the American dream.

The Tufts for Markey campaign, coordinated by freshman Lancy Downs, has been working to register voters, recruit volunteers and canvass and table both on and off campus. According to Downs, Tufts for Markey has been collaborating with both the Medford and Somerville campaigns in support of Markey.

After spending huge amounts of energy campaigning for Obama and Warren in the fall, the group is experiencing fatigue in their newest campaign, according to Downs.

I think that Tufts Democrats as an organization is sort of exhausted, she said. There was so much energy put into running the campaigns in the fall, and that energy has sort of been zapped.

Students involved in the campaign, however, are impressed by Markeys consistent voting record and plan to use this to their advantage in their canvassing.

As part of Markeys activism in environmental issues, the congressman co-authored the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 with Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) the only climate change legislation ever to pass in the House. Furthermore, as chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Markey ensured there was a live feed of the spill to accompany media coverage during the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and the 350.org Action Fund, the political arm of 350.org have endorsed Markey. This endorsement is the first of the Action Funds, and conforms to the organizations Vote No KXL campaign, which supports Markey.

Mostly why Im here, and why 350.org has really come out in strong [support of Markey] is because hes voted against the Keystone XL pipeline and promises to continue to do so once hes elected, sophomore Evan Bell, a campus organizer for the Vote No KXL campaign, said. I definitely wanted to get involved because I think the Keystone XL pipeline is one of the most important environmental issues of our time.

Bell discussed the importance of representation within government and discussion of environmental issues, which Markey champions, in order to make a change.

I definitely think theres a huge need for the political sphere to really realize the immediate impacts and long-term impacts of irresponsible environmental policies, Bell said. But just to have this scale that the government has, you need more and more people in positions of power to have these stances against pipelines or even just accepting warming as something that needs to be dealt with on a time scale because we dont have that long.

Students involved in the campaign identify with Markeys liberal stance on other high-profile issues discussed during the falls presidential debates and remain on the public agenda.

I would say, speaking to progressives, that he has a pretty strong record on supporting gun control legislation, womens rights, he voted for Obamacare, so in a lot of ways, he has sort of an almost-perfect record of supporting progressive causes in the House, Downs said.

Raff says that both Markey and Lynch are good Democrats but that Markey is favorable over his opposition in the primary.

Our biggest push is to get situated and prepared for the April 30 primary, Raff said. I think its good for the Democratic Party to have this competition between Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey. It really makes them think about their values and become very articulate in the way that they talk about what they care about and what theyll do for Massachusetts. I like to think of it as choosing between good and better.

Bell said that his support for Markey in the primary stems from Lynchs environmental stances and the stark difference between the voting records of the two.

I definitely think Markey has proven to be someone who is willing to go after the bigger oil companies … whos working on the pipeline, BP, Exxon, which is something thats completely lacking in Stephen Lynchs campaign and in his history, Bell said. He seems not to have [a] proactive stance on climate change at all.

In the 2010 special election to fill the late Ted Kennedys Senate seat, Markey announced his candidacy for the Democratic primary but dropped out soon after. Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate who faced Scott Brown, held the lead over her opponent during most of the campaign, but ultimately lost to Brown. According to senior Thiago Lima, a field fellow for the Markey campaign, the group is working to avoid the same disappointing results by not relying as heavily on poll data.

[We hope to] learn from Attorney General Coakleys campaign from three years ago, Lima said. We really dont want to take anything for granted [and] were really working to make everything count. Were out there on the field talking to voters and standing with Ed.

Student volunteers have found a lack of awareness of the special election to be a frequent obstacle in campaign efforts.

I think with special elections it is always difficult, but I think particularly with this special election, the fact that its followed such an intense campaign here in Massachusetts, I think a lot of people are, I dont want to say tired of political campaigns, I just dont think theyre really aware of [this one], Lima said.

According to Wessel, the rarity of such an election should encourage residents to get out and vote.

Ive been knocking on doors in Medford and Medford is [in] Ed Markeys district, everyone there supports him but a lot of them dont even know the election is going on because its not very publicized, its not on the front page of the [Boston] Globe all that often, Wessel said. It is a special election, so there tends to be lower turnout … but what that means is every person who will vote, their vote will have more of an impact.

This problem of awareness, compared to Warrens campaign in the fall, may stem from the fact that Warren had significantly more time to campaign than Markey does.

[Sophomore] Rachel [Salzberg] and I were sort of the first Tufts students to go signature-collecting. It was the first step of the campaign: We needed [10,000] signatures to get on the ballot, Downs said. A lot of people didnt really know who [Markey] was. So we had to explain. It wasnt even college students who, you can sort of imagine might be caught up in the culture of their school it was people who live in the community.

While Warren had over a year and a half to campaign, Lima said, the Markey campaign has only had about three months to get the word out before the primary. Lima stressed how effective he believes Markey will be in the U.S. Senate, citing the many positive endorsements of Markey as well as his approachable background.

In talking with potential voters, Ive just been talking a lot about Eds personal life and where hes come from as a working-class kid in Malden, [Mass.], Lima said. Someone who worked his way through college as an ice cream man and how hes continued to stand for the working, middle class in Massachusetts while looking to move Massachusetts in a progressive, sustainable way forward. Hes a really relatable guy.