Former New Bedford Mayor Considering U.S. Senate Run
BOSTON — This past January, Scott Lang was convinced that he should run for the U.S. Senate and challenge U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.
A self-described "centrist," Lang thought Markey and the Democratic Party were veering too far to the left, pushing what he considered to be unrealistic policy prescriptions like the Green New Deal and losing sight of what mattered to local communities.
The former mayor of New Bedford also thought the party had badly mishandled the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, costing the Democrats a chance to retake the Senate in 2018 and stop court packing by Republicans.
And then there was the issue of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren running for president.
"We've always had a national senator, but we don't usually have two and we certainly need one on a day-to-day basis that's more focused on the state and what the cities and towns need rather than the national ebb and flow," Lang told the News Service.
So Lang gathered a group of close friends and confidants to float his possible candidacy. They listened, and then urged him to wait. If he still felt the same way in a few months, then he should run, they said.
"Yes, I am looking at that very carefully but I haven't made any final decision," Lang told the News Service recently when contacted about his intentions.
Lang said he will likely make up his own mind in the next few months, but he has been encouraged by the entrance to the primary race of Brookline labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan.
Steve Pemberton, the chief human resources officer for software company WorkHuman, is also exploring a run as a Democrat. The Framingham native returned to his hometown in 2017 after several years living in the suburbs of Chicago, and he bought a house in May, while two of his children remain in school in Illinois. Pemberton is working with Northwind Strategies.
Since leaving city hall in 2012 after six years as mayor, Lang has returned to practicing law at Lang, Xifaras and Bullard and said he "loves" what he is doing. Comfortably settled in his New Bedford law office, the former mayor may be less sure than he was in January that he wants to run a statewide campaign. But he is no less certain that a contested Democratic primary will be good for the party and for Markey, even if the incumbent prevails.
"I just have a real sense that this Senate race needs to be contested," Lang said. "The more the merrier. I just felt like somebody's got to drive the debate that there's more to being a U.S. senator than raising money for the next campaign and flying around the country talking about ethereal issues that may not be the focal point for communities."
One of those issues is the Green New Deal, a resolution that Markey co-sponsored with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to refashion the economy around clean energy and solutions to climate change.
"The new green deal or the green new deal is a great term paper, but the idea that you'd use the credibility of a respected long-term career to jump on something that was clearly not well thought through and say this is the next thing we should do?" Lang said.
"Anyone can name the issues. Coming up with bipartisan solutions that actually have a chance of being enacted is more of a challenge," he concluded.
If he were to run, Lang would be a moderate voice for Democratic voters at a time when former Vice President Joe Biden is also leading in presidential primary polls by occupying a centrist lane. Lang has flirted with statewide runs in the past, including consideration of a run for governor in 2014.
"I'm still in the process of deciding whether this can happen without me having to jump in and push this whole concept," Lang said, referring to the idea of a senator focused on local needs.
"I think the race would be important for the incumbent as well as the challengers. When it's all said and done, it will make for a better-elected official and I think the senator should welcome debates," he continued.
Markey's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Lang's potential candidacy or his critique of the senator's priorities.
A Boston Globe-Suffolk University poll released Tuesday found that 39 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Markey compared to 25 percent who had an unfavorable view of the junior senator. Twenty-two percent said they had no opinion of Markey.
Lang said he's known Markey for some time and has "no issue with him" on a personal level, but feels there is a "lack of day-to-day communication and understanding of what's needed on the ground."
Markey gave a speech to the New England Council on the day Liss-Riordan announced she would challenge him next year, running through his views on issues like climate change, infrastructure funding, immigration reform, net neutrality, a woman's right to choose, and stronger gun control.
"Those are the issues I've been fighting for throughout my entire career, and I'm going to continue to fight for them," Markey told reporters,
When asked about facing a primary challenge, the senator said, "I'm as energized as I have ever been because Donald Trump every single day is launching assaults on all of the issues that are at the core of the identity of the state of Massachusetts and our entire country."
Forty-four percent of those polled in the Globe-Suffolk survey said they would vote for Markey in a Democratic primary if it were held today. Liss-Riordan and Pemberton each had 5 percent support and 45 percent were undecided.
--Matt Murphy, State House News Service