BOSTON – Democrat Katherine Clark easily won a special election to fill the Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District seat vacated by Edward Markey, defeating three opponents Tuesday and becoming only the fifth woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House.
After topping a crowded Democratic primary, the Melrose state senator ran a low-key general election campaign in a state where voters have grown weary of a succession of special election. She agreed to just a single debate against Republican Frank Addivinola, a Boston attorney.
Two other candidates also were on the ballot -- Wellesley resident James Aulenti and Arlington resident James Hall.
The district stretches from the coast to communities north and west of Boston including Waltham, Framingham and Medford. It is heavily Democratic and overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in last year's presidential contest.
Markey vacated the seat earlier this year after winning a special election to the U.S. Senate seat left open after John Kerry was named secretary of state.
Clark will fill out the remainder of Markey's two-year term and face re-election next fall.
Clark and Addivinola offered voters a stark choice on issues ranging from abortion to the federal health care law.
Clark supports abortion rights and said that while she's disappointed with its website problems, she believe Obama's health care initiative is a historic law that could pave the way to even broader health care coverage for Americans.
Addivinola opposes to abortion and believes that an unborn fetus is entitled to legal protections. He also criticized the federal health care law and said efforts to expand health coverage are best left up to states.
Clark, 50, said her priorities also include ending gun-related violence, increasing the minimum wage, supporting Social Security and early education and guaranteeing pay equity for women. Addivinola, 53, described himself as a "small government kind of candidate" and blamed a lack of leadership in Washington for the nation's stubborn unemployment and underemployment rates.
Clark also enjoyed a fundraising edge in the race, receiving nearly $1.2 million in political contributions through Nov. 20. She also poured an additional $250,000 of her own money into her campaign. Addivinola collected just $38,334 in donations during the same period and contributed more than $61,000 of his own money to his campaign.
Clark won the backing of big-name Democrats during the campaign including House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, and Massachusetts' two U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren and Markey.
Clark, a lawyer and former public interest attorney who was first elected to the Legislature in 2008, enters Congress as the newest member of a minority party in a chamber where Democrats have few levers of power.