In less than three weeks Massachusetts voters will head to the polls for the third time in just over three years to elect a United States Senator. Voter interest in the race to replace John Kerry-now secretary of state- remains low.
The so-far sluggish campaign enters a potentially pivotal stage tonight as Ed Markey, the veteran Democratic Congressman, and Gabriel Gomez , the newcomer Republican will meet face to face for the first of three scheduled debates. Each candidate has a very specific set of tasks to accomplish in the final 20 days of the campaign, according to Tim Vercellotti, political science professor at Western New England University.
Gomez, the former Navy SEAL and successful businessman, needs to make a solid case for why he would be a good U.S. Senator.
Markey needs to show that he has vision and vitality after 36 years serving in the U.S.House and that he is not a rigid partisan.
Markey’s campaign has been highlighted by a light schedule of public events and behind the scenes courting of traditional Democratic constituencies.
Markey is also banking on a Democratic get-out-the-vote effort that impressively flexed its muscles in the last two general elections in Massachusetts. Party officials vow not to repeat the mistakes that they believe led to Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory in the last special Senate election to replace Edward Kennedy.
Gomez has tried to emulate Brown’s bipartisan appeal to independent voters in Massachusetts. But, national fund raising appeals have portrayed a Gomez victory as vital to a Republican take over the US Senate.
Tonight’s debate sponsored by WBZ-TV and the Boston Globe, one next week here in Springfield, and the final debate in Boston one week before the election could still shake up the race.
The campaign ad wars likely will intensify in the closing days of the campaign.
Interest in the Senate race could pick up in the final 20 days, but today is the deadline to register to vote in the June 25th special election. Gladys Oyola, Election Commissioner for the City of Springfield, said the senate campaign has not produced a surge in new voters.
Oyola said there appears to be more voter interest in the July 16 casino referendum in Springfield than in this month’s special Senate election.