By Jim Smith
BOSTON — In one of the hottest Congressional races in the country, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn shares the lead with several other candidates hoping to replace retiring Joe Kennedy. According to a Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll last week, Somerville Mayor Michael Capuano leads the crowded field of 10 candidates with 16 percent of those surveyed, while Flynn is a close second with 15 percent.
Marjorie Clapprood, former state representative and talk-show host, is close behind, as are millionaire businessman John O’Connor and former state senator George Bachrach.
The winner of the Sept. 15 Democratic Primary is expected to easily win the November election in a race against little-known Republican challenger R. Philip Hyde.
Flynn, who’s 59, has been under attack by Boston Globe columnists David Nyhan and Thomas Oliphant for his pro-life views. The former Boston mayor is the only anti-abortion candidate in the race, and rivals hope that the abortion issue may prove to be Flynn’s Achilles heel.
Nearly a year ago, the Globe portrayed Flynn as a heavy drinker who shunned his duties during his tenure as Vatican ambassador. Six months later, Flynn received some vindication when a sympathetic report on CBS’s "60 Minutes" implied that the Globe’s investigation into Flynn’s drinking habits was heavy-handed and excessive.
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In May, Globe political columnist Brian Mooney wrote that Flynn’s campaign for Congress was "a sad, almost pathetic story" of "an aging fighter, attempting one too many comebacks."
Despite the negative portrayals, the populist Flynn has been at the front of the pack since entering the crowded race four months ago. Nearly half of the voters in the 8th District are from Boston, where Flynn was a popular mayor for nearly 10 years before becoming ambassador to the Vatican. Other areas in the 8th District include Cambridge, Somerville, Belmont and Watertown.
Capuano, who has been Mayor of Somerville since 1990, received the editorial endorsement of the Boston Herald last Friday. Clapprood, who has described herself publicly as "a recovering Catholic," has received endorsements from several gay groups and the weekly newspaper The Boston Phoenix.
In a nasty column last week, Phoenix writer Michael Crowley predicted that Flynn, if elected, would become "the butt of Capitol Hill jokes." Crowley described Flynn as a "tragic figure" whose "base of support — blue-collar Irish Catholics, prolifers, and a few Mayor Flynn sentimentalists — will be with him no matter what he does."
Flynn, meanwhile, hopes to get the last laugh after voters go to the polls next Tuesday. About 75,000 people are expected to cast votes.