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Beacon Hill Senate Democrats act quickly to help Sen. Markey qualify for ballot, but tough luck if you’re trying to run for one of their seats

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WOBURN — An amendment filed by Webster Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman that would have lowered the signature threshold for both federal and state candidates predictably died in the state Senate Thursday, with Senate Democrats instead voting in lockstep to advance an election bill that would immediately benefit one of their most powerful incumbents.

“This is exactly the kind of game the Democrats intended to play, as soon as they heard Sen. Ed Markey was 3,000 signatures short,” said Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons. “The Democrats panicked and wanted to change the rules to help their guy, and were in quite a hurry to do so — but too bad if you’re trying to qualify to run against one of them.

“When it came to the issue of fairness, and spreading it across the board, Democrats stood united against it, and this is the type of one-party rule that has to stop.” 

The legislation slices in half signature collection requirements for candidates running for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and various county seats. Last Tuesday, Markey’s campaign announced it was more than 3,000 signatures short of qualifying. Days later, after weeks of inaction, Democrats on Good Friday filed their legislation.

Fattman’s amendment called for also applying the policy to state legislative races, but failed Thursday on a party-line vote 5-4, with Republican Sens. Patrick O’Connor (Weymouth), Bruce Tarr (Gloucester), and Dean Tran (Fitchburg) joining Fattman in support, and Democrat Sens. Nick Collins (South Boston), Barry Finegold (Andover), Cindy Friedman (Arlington), Michael Rodrigues (Westport), and Walter Timilty (Milton) successfully opposing.

Said Fattman during Thursday’s Senate session:

“Our policy today is that we don’t believe in picking winners and losers, we believe in fairness and equal protection for all, and if we’re going to change the signature requirement law, isn’t the most fair way to do it – to do it for everybody?”

The Senate’s bill now heads to the House, where it faces an unpredictable future. 

“Senate Democrats have the network and the finances to easily qualify for their own races for reelection, and now it looks like they’re also setting out to prove that they have the means and power to limit anyone else’s chances of challenging them,” Lyons said.