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Dem US House hopefuls in Mass. oppose Syria action

September 10, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic candidates vying for an open U.S. House seat in Massachusetts are rejecting President Barack Obama’s call for military strikes against Syria.

State Sens. William Brownsberger and Katherine Clark, state Rep. Carl Sciortino, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and former Lexington School Committee member Martin Long all said in separate statements that if they were members of Congress, they would vote against authorizing U.S. military force.

State Sen. Karen Spilka said she was “extremely skeptical” about military action and would need clarification about the goal of any operation and the risks involved.

The candidates will vie in the Oct. 15 primary for the 5th Congressional District seat formerly held by Edward Markey, a longtime member of the House, who won a special election to the U.S. Senate in June.

One of the three Republicans on the primary ballot, Harvard physicist Michael Stopa of Holliston, said on his campaign website that he believed Congress should give Obama the power to act militarily if he chooses, while adding that he lacked confidence that the president would proceed wisely if authorized.

Republican candidates Frank Addivinola and Tom Tierney said they would vote against the resolution.

Sciortino, who planned to hold a news conference Tuesday with a group of veterans to voice opposition to military intervention, called Syrian President Bashar Assad a “failed leader” who had committed atrocities against his own people. But he said he had too many questions about what a military strike would achieve and said the U.S. should instead pursue other options for ending the Syrian civil war, including a Middle East peace conference.

Brownsberger said he favored humanitarian aid to refugees of the conflict, but would only consider military action if the U.S. achieved broad backing from the international community.

Koutoujian similarly expressed reservations about military action not taken in close consultation with its allies, while Clark said she did not believe the case had yet been made for use of force.

Long said he felt Obama had “painted himself in a corner” by promising an aggressive response if chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime.

A seventh Democrat on the ballot, Paul John Maisano of Stoneham, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Markey, now a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted “present” when the panel approved the latest version of the resolution last week, saying he wanted to review all relevant classified documents regarding Syria before deciding.

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