Voters are going to the polls in Massachusetts today to pick a successor to John Kerry, who resigned from the U.S. Senate in January to become Secretary of State.
The third U.S. Senate election campaign in Massachusetts in as many years was interrupted by blizzards in February, a terrorist attack in April and now ends in a heat wave. Voters today will send either Democrat Edward Markey or Republican Gabriel Gomez to the U.S. Senate.
Markey, who has spent 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, lined up early endorsements from the Democratic party establishment, several labor unions, women’s groups and environmental activists. He stressed his voting record on progressive issues and warned Republicans would try to use the special election in Massachusetts as the first step toward getting control of the Senate.
Gomez,whose only other try for elected office was a failed bid for the board of selectmen in his hometown of Cohasset, came to the Senate race with a compelling personal story. He is the son of Colombian immigrants, a Navy SEAL who married a Peace Corps volunteer, went to Harvard, and became a successful private equity advisor. Gomez said he would break with national Republicans on such issues as immigration reform and climate change.
Gomez’s strategy was to turn Markey’s long career in Washington into a liability.
But Gomez’s inexperience showed. His rhetoric at times became overheated, such as when he once called Markey “ pond scum”. In their first debate, Gomez challenged Markey to name a bill the Congressman sponsored that had been signed into law. Markey was able to rattle off several examples, and Gomez never raised the question again for the rest of the campaign.
In their three debates, and in campaign ads Markey attacked Gomez over his opposition to an assault weapons ban, his support for raising the retirement age to collect Social Security, and Gomez’s rejection of any litmus test for Supreme Court Justices on Roe vs. Wade.
Markey enjoyed a roughly two to one edge in campaign fund-raising and he put it to good use in the ad wars, according to Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli.
Markey has held the lead in every pre-election poll leading him to wage a cautious campaign, according to Tim Vercellotti, director of the Western New England University Polling Institute.
While Gomez had at least one public event scheduled just about every day during the last two months there were long stretches where Markey was off the campaign trail. But Markey insisted he was not taking the race for granted.
The Markey campaign said its volunteers contacted 3 million voters during the closing days of the campaign.
Gomez’s final pitch to voters was a plea to take a chance on him.
The winner of today’s special election fills Kerry’s unexpired term, which means another Senate election in Massachusetts in 2014.