Even with his new profile, though, it’s unclear whether Joyce can attract hard-core progressive support. One gay activist is hopeful: “I feel comfortable with Joyce because I’ve worked with him on gay issues, and now that he’s pro-choice it will make it easier for the gay community to work with him.” But some abortion-rights advocates aren’t so sure. “We need him to go on-record in writing to clear up any confusion about his position on choice,” says Melissa Kogut, the executive director of the Massachusetts affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). Advocates for choice are looking for more than lip service to Roe v. Wade, she says: “We look for candidates to support access to the full range of reproductive choices, including abortion — that means they oppose restrictions to abortion, including bans on so-called partial-birth abortions.” When he spoke to the Phoenix, Joyce declined to answer questions on issues such as third-term abortions and federal funding of abortions abroad. “I think he is clearly evolving in his positions,” says Gloria Totten, executive director of the political-action committee Progressive Majority and a former political director of NARAL. But, she adds, “I don’t think it would be enough to garner an endorsement. We’re going to have to see whose hat is in the ring before we do anything.”
SO FAR, Joyce has had more success capturing the imagination of progressives than Marc Pacheco, who represents Taunton, Middleborough, Raynham, and surrounding towns. This is despite Pacheco’s relatively open-minded position on abortion. “Over the years, I’ve come to understand this issue more and talked to a lot of people,” says Pacheco. “It’s very difficult for government to tell people what to do. It becomes very emotional.” Like Joyce, he speaks of the need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies; in an interview with the Phoenix, he mentioned “prevention, outreach, health care.”
On gay and lesbian issues, Pacheco may have alienated some potential supporters when, as a state representative, he voted against the Gay Rights Bill in 1989; he was unsure it could be implemented fairly. He now says he regrets that decision: “That’s one of the votes I wished I could take over again, because it hasn’t been a problem at all. I was proven wrong.” Pacheco has not yet come to a decision on the state DOMA legislation. “I’ll wait and see if it gets to us [in the state senate],” he says. (It’s worth noting that Pacheco’s director of finance, Dori Dean, is an out lesbian and has been advising him on gay and lesbian issues.)
But even Pacheco is a likelier progressive candidate than Stephen Lynch. During a June 11 appearance on the New England Cable News show NewsNight, Lynch, who represents the South End as well as South Boston, stood by his anti-abortion position. The farthest he would go is to say, “The key for Joe [Moakley] ... and I would say for myself is that we always try to be respectful of the people on each side of that issue.” Sensitivity may make for a good TV sound bite, but abortion-rights advocates rightly point out that it doesn’t count for much in House votes. Many gay-rights supporters also remember Lynch’s opposition to gays’ marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and his opposition to domestic-partnership legislation.
Given these options, some progressives will look for a high-profile liberal to take Kennedy’s place. One possibility is Norfolk County district attorney Bill Keating, formerly a state senator from Sharon. As the Phoenix went to press, Keating was still deciding whether to get into the race. Keating’s reputation among progressives was boosted in 1993, when he unsuccessfully challenged William Bulger for the presidency of the Massachusetts Senate; the two had clashed over Bulger’s autocratic leadership style and had differences over issues such as choice and gay rights, which Keating advocated. “If Bill Keating jumped in, everything would change,” says Goldman a former Keating consultant. “With a long history of supporting abortion rights and gay rights and the ability to raise large amounts of money, he would supersede both Lynch and Joyce as the prohibitive front-runner.”
Keating brings numerous advantages to a race in the Ninth. Together, his former Senate district and Norfolk County make up more than half the district — giving him the largest potential base for a run. Recent polling also showed Keating with high name recognition in the Ninth. His home is not actually in the district, but it’s literally across the street.
Abortion-rights advocates have been urging Keating to run; he’s one of the potential candidates the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus will discuss when they meet on Friday to go over options for the race. Another politician sure to be mentioned is State Senator Cheryl Jacques of Needham, whom some activists are hoping to entice out of her race for lieutenant governor and into the congressional race; Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara wrote on Wednesday: “Why in 2001 should women in Massachusetts be relegated to the bridesmaid role of lieutenant governor?”