U.S. Senate special election campaigns fizzle in Massachusetts

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March 29, 2013

Massachusetts

BOSTON, Massachusetts: Special elections are commonly accompanied by below-average voter turnout.[1] This year's special election in Massachusetts to fill newly minted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's U.S. Senate seat is unlikely to become an exception.

One factor considered to be working against the candidates is the compressed election schedule.[2] In regular election years, candidates have months to ­organize their operations, raise funds, get up to speed on issues, and hone their campaign skills before a September primary. Special elections, a relatively new process in Massachusetts for filling Senate vacancies, come suddenly and play out over a far shorter period, creating an intense campaign that prioritizes momentum and built-in organizations.[2]

Some have cited tough weather as a factor for the lack of political buzz, as activists struggle through winter doldrums that seep into spring. “It’s really quiet, remarked one consultant, “People are tired. It’s a special election. Winter hit us again this week. All but the most hard-core political activists are just living their lives, shoveling out.[2]

Also diverting attention from the race is Governor Deval Patrick’s campaign to urge the Legislature to back his plan to raise taxes for investment in transportation and education. The special election for the Senate seat has taken a backseat, as the Patrick proposal is dominating as the political story of the season.[2]

Political analysts have commented, “Voters were burned out by the presidential race and the Brown-Warren race, and they are not looking forward to another political campaign at an odd time of year that they are not used to."[2]

Others argue that Brown’s decision to take a pass was most responsible for draining the sizzle from this race, pointing out that he would have brought star qualities to the campaign.[2] "With Democrats, still smarting from his victory in 2010, energized to drive a ­final stake into his political ­career, his candidacy would have almost certainly kicked up a political storm."[2]

The Senate race, which was included on the Washington Post's recently updated list of the Top 5 races of 2013, will culminate at the June 25, 2013 general election, following a primary on April 30, 2013.[3][4]

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