The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Letters  |  Media -- Dont Quote Me  |  News Features  |  Talking Politics  |  The Editorial Page  |  This Just In

Who’s the real Dem?

Phil Dunkelbarger’s challenge to Steve Lynch could be a referendum on Democratic values — if anyone pays attention
By ADAM REILLY  |  July 6, 2006

PHIL DUNKELBARGER: here stumping at the Forest Hills T stop, says Congressman Stephen Lynch is betraying his fellow Democrats.
Down in Connecticut, a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party is raging. Joe Lieberman — the US senator, former vice-presidential and presidential candidate, and squeaky-voiced avatar of Democratic conservatism — is facing a tough primary challenge from Ned Lamont, a liberal telecommunications magnate who accuses Lieberman of abetting the failures of the Bush Administration. Polls show a close race, and there’s already talk of Lieberman running as an independent if Lamont bumps him off in September.

Here in Massachusetts, meanwhile, Congressman Stephen Lynch has a primary challenge of his own from a guy named Phil Dunkelbarger, who dreams of playing Lamont to Lynch’s Lieberman. As the Westwood resident tells it, Lynch, too, is guilty of betraying his fellow Democrats: among other things, he backed the Iraq war, even after most Democrats expressed misgivings, and favored government intervention in the Terry Schiavo case. This makes Lynch a de facto ally of the president, Dunkelbarger claims — and given the restiveness of the national electorate, which has people talking about major Republican setbacks in this fall’s midterm elections, it also makes him vulnerable at the ballot box.

“Let’s be candid about it — conditions in this country have gone south in the last five years,” Dunkelbarger argues. “That we could go downhill so fast is mind-boggling, and it’s because so many Democrats were complicit. And Steve Lynch has got to be held accountable for that complicity, because he’s basically been carrying water for the administration for five years. He can be taken out. And he needs to be taken out.”

Strong words, those — even if they’re debatable (more on that later) — and portents of a bitter fight to come. There’s just one problem: with the primary election two months away, it’s not clear that anyone is actually heeding Dunkelbarger’s call to the ramparts.

Told you so
Long-shot candidates who lack buzz tend to blame the media, and Dunkelbarger is no exception. It’s a sweltering June afternoon, and I’ve just met the candidate at the Readville commuter-rail stop in Hyde Park to watch him on the stump. When I note, at the outset, that people don’t seem to be talking about his race, Dunkelbarger bristles. “We gathered five thousand signatures,” he answers. “We’ve been all over the place. The media’s been ignoring us.”

However, he also says — and here, too, Dunkelbarger hews to the standard long-shot script — that things are looking up. The press is starting to notice, Dunkelbarger insists; what’s more, his aggressive retail politicking is having an impact. “I’ve been doing trains since the beginning of February, and I’ve seen the same person at three different locations,” he recounts. “They’re starting to recognize me when they see me, so I know we’re starting to get some traction.”

This blend of resentment and overweening optimism seems all too typical, and I’m ready to dismiss Dunkelbarger as just another quixotic lefty. But then the challenger shifts into his critique of Lynch, and it turns out that as a polemicist, he’s surprisingly effective.

In 2002, before the now-infamous congressional vote giving President Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq, Dunkelbarger was part of a group that traveled to Washington to convince Lynch to vote no. When they met with the congressman, Dunkelbarger recalls, he acknowledged that calls to his office were running seven to one in favor of a no vote. But Lynch also spoke of attending classified briefings in the White House, in which then–CIA director George Tenet and other Bush-administration heavyweights outlined the severity of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

To this day, Lynch cites those briefings as critical to his eventual decision to vote yes. (When the Phoenix asked Lynch about the seven-to-one figure, he acknowledged that constituent feedback was “heavily in favor” of a no vote, but added that opponents were more likely to call than proponents.) Dunkelbarger, however, points out that the Bush administration appointed John Poindexter and Elliott Abrams — both of whom were previously convicted of lying to Congress — to key positions in the run-up to the war. Lynch, he believes, had ample cause for skepticism.

“You know you can’t believe these people,” Dunkelbarger says. “You have a good suspicion they don’t have much regard for the truth. Ted Kennedy, your senior senator, is telling you ‘go slow’, and your constituents are telling you seven to one not to do it. Why would you do it? The best face you can put on it is that the guy has extremely, extremely poor judgment, in the face of all this evidence, to decide to exercise leadership and vote for the resolution.”

Of course, Lynch was hardly the only Democrat to support the resolution. But he was the only member of the Massachusetts delegation to support the GOP’s “Stay the Course in Iraq” resolution earlier this month. “He was all alone this time,” Dunkelbarger says. “He’s the only one who voted with the Republicans. Unbelievable.”

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Phil Dunkelbarger , Phil Dunkelbarger , Steve Lynch ,  More more >
  • Share:
  • RSS feed Rss
  • Email this article to a friend Email
  • Print this article Print
Who’s the real Dem?
Very fair article. I would balance the "democratic observer's" characterization of the District, however, with the following facts: Lynch originally won the seat in a multi-candidate, Special Election with only 39% of the vote. The two candidates who finished second and third, both "left of center" Democrats, received 45% of the vote between them. In addition, there has been a significant demographic shift, over the past four years, in the make up of those neighborhoods referenced as Lynch's base (some say Southie alone has turned over more than 50%, as rising real estate values have transitioned lifelong Southie families to the Boston suburbs and New Hampshire). Also, as reported, Lynch has recently been whining about how he was misled on the war and that, "if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for it." This is a lie. As recently as March of 2005, Lynch made the following statement: "I did support the decision to use military force in Iraq, not because it was a move to democracy or a hunt for weapons of mass destruction, but to remove Saddam Hussein from power." Now that it is clear what a huge mistake he made, with such catastrophic consequences, he would like to duck responsibility for his actions by claiming he's just a victim.
By Phil Dunkelbarger on 07/06/2006 at 2:51:00
Who’s the real Dem?
Lynch says. “Well, if I had the information we have now, I would have voted differently..." What information is Lynch talking about? Lynch's stated reasons for going to war were to get rid of Saddam Hussein, based on that ill-concieved notion what possible information in his posession now would change his thinking? Likening Lynch's record to Barney Franks is laughable. They are diametrically opposed on Choice, equal Marriage rights, privacy, the occupation of Iraq. To alledge that all votes carry equal weight is to take the voters of the 9th district for fools.
By Dunkdem1957 on 07/06/2006 at 9:55:42
Who’s the real Dem?
As the coordinator of South of Boston DFA, I have to disagree that Phil has not tried to get the endorsement of DFA. He has been endorsed by our group and has his campaign information up on DFA-Link. The mysterious process that results in becoming endorsed by the national Democracy for America organization is unknown to me and I have been the host of the South of Boston group since we were Dean for America. By the way, Phil was one of the early Dean supporters and even travelled to NH for Dean events. He has always held the same fiscally responsible, socially progressive beliefs and saw that the war was wrong in real time, not hindsight.
By Jan A on 07/06/2006 at 12:23:06
Who’s the real Dem?
Lynch's contention that he's a critic of the war is laughable. If Lynch has not been identified as a Bush accomplice, let me fix that now. There have been twleve significant votes in the House -- opportunities for Democrats to voice their opposition to the War: Lynch chose NOT to support the Murtha Bill or the McGovern Bill. Of the remaining ten votes, he voted with the Republicans six out of the ten -- he voted with his fellow Democrat (Frank) only four of twelve times. His record on Iraq is by far the worst of any rep in the Commonwealth; note the following specific votes: Frank : 12/12 Delahunt : 11/12 McGovern : 11/12 Meehan : 10/12 Olver : 9/12 Markey : 9/12 Tierney : 8/12 Capuano : 7/12 Neal : 7/12 Lynch : 4/12 The votes are for: OOI Caucus, HCR 35, Woosley Amd, HJR 55, HR 551, HCR 197, HR 3142, HR 612, HR 4232, HJR 73, and HR 861. I sure hope Adam Reilly is wrong; this can't be tilting at windmills. A system in which people with strong ideas run for elected office is called something else: it's called a "democracy". But I should thank him and The Phoenix for helping get the word out. Lynch is part of the problem -- the only part of the problem that I can vote to fix. Dunkelbarger is spot on; Lynch has got to go.
By winchou on 07/06/2006 at 7:51:27
Who’s the real Dem?
The Iraq War IS the defining issue, because it’s the tip of the iceberg containing all the other crucial issues: the power grabs of 2000, 2002, 2004; the transformation of the 9/11 attack into a worldwide Cold War; the collapse of the Democratic party as an effective opposition; the loss of civil liberties; the end of government accountability; you could go on and on. The cowardice and aloof professionalism of the Democratic Party in the face of this ongoing crisis is what’s driving people to despair. Every campaign that tilts the balance of power back to normal matters. Here in the 9th District we have a chance to do something concrete, and elect a congressman who actually speaks intelligently about political realities. The fact that we only have an outside chance of doing so shows how decadent our democracy has become.
By ReadyToRock on 07/07/2006 at 10:21:15
Who’s the real Dem?
As a Democratic activist, who worked for Dean and Kerry, as well as financially supports the Fightin Dems and ned Lamont, I would LOVE to work for Phil, if I knew anything about him I have been contacted only once by a petulant Phil, who shoots himself in the foot by alienating the very people he should be wooing. I know nothing about his background, and well know the history of voters running toward people they know nothing of to escape rascals they do. I despise Lynch, and find him contemptuous as a Pied Piper of Death speaking out for the recruitment of our children in the dance to death in Iraq. He is a hack, ignorant and panders to the worst in people. He represents the most ignorant of our Ma. voters. Tell Phil to get me a list of what he stands FOR, and where he comes from and I would be happy to help him.
By patriotic pilgrim on 07/07/2006 at 11:01:38
Who’s the real Dem?
Who's The Real Dem? Adam Reilly's title says it all, we shouldn't have to ask. Lapdog Lynch is just another rubber-stamp for the Bush agenda. He supports Republican policies and voted "Stay the Course" H.R.861, against all the other MA delegation. The Democratic platform supports a woman's right to choose, as does Phil Dunkelbarger. Lynch does not support women's rights. I'm fed up with Lynch's incompetent record. The 9th District needs Phil Dunkelbanger, a real Dem.
By Linda H. on 07/09/2006 at 8:44:55
Who’s the real Dem?
Lieberman-Lamomt primary is in August, not September.
By reader on the train on 07/23/2006 at 4:28:28

Today's Event Picks
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FAIR IS FOUL  |  November 17, 2008
    What's the fuss over the Fairness Doctrine really about?
  •   RACIAL HEALING  |  November 10, 2008
    Former mayoral opponents Ray Flynn and Mel King discuss how far their city’s come, and how far it hasn’t, since 1983
  •   NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD  |  November 03, 2008
    What if the election doesn’t end on Election Day?
  •   BULL DISCLOSURE  |  October 22, 2008
    As the candidates prep for the final debate, it’s a fitting time to ask: why do some journalistic conflicts of interest become scandals, while others get almost no attention at all?
  •   ROLLED  |  October 02, 2008
    Where’s the outrage over media mistreatment at the RNC?

 See all articles by: ADAM REILLY

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2008 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group