US Rep. Stephen Lynch, who has represented southern Jamaica Plain in Congress for eight years, is facing three challengers who are all running as political outsiders.
The challengers for the Ninth Congressional District seat include: Philip Dunkelbarger of Westwood, a liberal independent who ran unsuccessfully against Lynch in 2006; Vernon Harrison of Braintree, a Republican computer specialist; and Keith Lepor of Roslindale, a Republican international photojournalist.
The Ninth Congressional District includes JP’s Jamaica Hills, Forest Hills and Woodbourne neighborhoods.
Lynch is a South Boston Democrat known as a political moderate. A former ironworker and labor lawyer, Lynch has been especially involved in national security and workers’ rights issues. That includes advocacy for US energy independence through such technology as solar power, and for an increase in the federal minimum wage.
“This is a very interesting time in politics,” Lynch said in a written statement to the Gazette. “People are engaged and well-informed, and I think that is a good thing for our district and our country.”
Lynch said he is looking forward to the campaign. “I will continue to fight for the working men and women throughout the Ninth District and continue to take a common-sense approach to find solutions to the issues facing our nation,” he said.
Dunkelbarger runs an exporting business and is a former Beverly city councilor. During his 2006 run for the seat, he was a Democrat and won the endorsement of the local Ward 19 Democratic Committee.
In an e-mail to the Gazette, he blasted Lynch for having “accomplished almost nothing in 9 years” and as a “professional politician” focused on raising funds from giant corporations.
“If he was ever useful, he has outlived his usefulness,” wrote Dunkelbarger about Lynch. “During the 9 years he has been in office, our government has broken, and it makes no sense at all to send the same people who broke back to fix it.”
Dunkelbarger’s issues include campaign finance reform; a more progressive income tax code; and an immediate 10 percent cut in the federal budget, along with a shift from international to domestic spending.
Harrison’s experiences range from stand-up comedy to serving as a youth minister. He was unavailable for comment for this article, according to his campaign.
His campaign web site also blasts “special interests” and promises a “historic grassroots effort that will send the message, ‘American citizens have a voice and you better start listening.’”
The “issues” section of his campaign site is a list of government agencies and programs that he describes as “broken.” They include the Postal Service, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. Of the 1960s War on Poverty, Harrison’s site says, “$1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to ‘the poor’ and they only want more.”
Lepor is a Boston native and a former “Jimmy Fund kid” who survived cancer as a child. The Roslindale resident knows the local area well, frequenting such JP spots as Arnold Arboretum.
But it is Lepor’s experience in international affairs that has inspired his run for Congress. He holds degrees from Oxford University and the American University in Cairo, and in the 1990s edited an influential book of essays called “After the Cold War,” whose contributors included former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
More recently, Lepor has been a photojournalist covering war-torn areas around the world for such organizations as CNN and the United Nations. His long-term service as a journalist embedded with US troops in Afghanistan especially triggered his run for office, he told the Gazette.
“This is a very dangerous world, and I’ve seen it firsthand,” he said, citing national security as one of his top issues.
Another top issue is economic reform—fewer business regulations, more job creation and a simplified tax code.
“A lot of Democrats believe government is the answer,” said Lepor. “I believe [government programs] have a role to play, especially in the area of national security, but I believe they’re part of the problem.”
The Gazette asked Lepor about some key social issues often debated at the federal level. He said that, like President Obama, he supports civil unions rather than marriage for same-sex couples. On the issue of abortion rights, he said, “I don’t like to see it for birth control. But in the end, the only thing that matters to me is, it’s the woman’s right to choose.”
“In the age of micro-nukes, there are bigger fish to fry,” he added, pointing to national security as more important than such social issues.
Lepor criticized Lynch, whom he refers to as “the union-backed incumbent,” as part of a broken federal government. He particularly called Lynch “hypocritical” for criticizing large bonuses paid out of federal stimulus funds by the company AIG after voting for the legislation that permitted such bonuses.
“If you’re happy with the way Washington is working, if you’re happy being taxed to death…then Stephen Lynch is the guy for you,” Lepor said.
A longtime independent voter, Lepor joined the Republican Party five months ago. Lepor said he believes he can win in the heavily Democratic district by focusing on independent voters and conservative Democrats. He cited as a model the recent election of Republican US Sen. Scott Brown, who won thanks to independent voters.
The primary election will be held Sept. 14 and the final election on Nov. 2. For more information about the candidates, see their web sites at: Dunk2010.com (Dunkelbarger); VoteForVernon.com (Harrison); KeithLepor2010.com; and StephenLynchForCongress.com.