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Massachusetts Democrats Battle As Congressional Primary Arrives

By Elizabeth Mehren

The late congressman loved a good fight, and the band of hopefuls vying to succeed him has been only too happy to oblige.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s special primary election, the personal attacks flew among seven Democrats competing for the seat left vacant when Rep. Joseph J. Moakley died of leukemia last spring.

More refined campaigning came from two Republicans seeking the job held by the legendary Democrat, who represented South Boston on Capitol Hill for 27 years. But their politeness is unlikely to win out, since registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 4 to 1 in the state’s ninth congressional district -- which has had just three representatives in the last 70 years.

A flurried day of door-knocking and handshaking Monday marked the end of the intense, 12-week-long battle among Democrats John Taylor, William Ferguson, William Sinnott, Cheryl Jacques, Stephen Lynch, Brian Joyce and Mark Pacheco. Polls late last week showed Lynch, a state senator, in the lead with an expected 39 percent of the vote.

Jacques, his closest rival at 18 percent, spent much of the race painting Lynch as a friend of the “radical right” and a foe of abortion rights. “He will go to Washington, he will join the Republican extremists to take away a woman’s right to choose,” Jacques, also a state senator, predicted in a final debate Sunday night.

Lynch, insisting that “there are no Republican, right-wing extremists” in Massachusetts, noted that Moakley had opposed abortion.

During the campaign, Joyce -- also a member of the state Senate -- sent out mailings that contained unflattering references to the live-in partner of Jacques, who is a lesbian. Joyce, who drew 12 percent in last week’s polls, offended many Moakley loyalists by announcing his candidacy before the veteran legislator had died.