COHASSET, Mass. — The special U.S. Senate election now turns to June, after Democratic and Republican parties selected their nominees Tuesday by wide margins.
Republican political newcomer Gabriel Gomez won 51 percent of the primary vote, while the one-time frontrunner, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, received just 36 percent, and Norfolk state Rep. Daniel Winslow got 13 percent.
Tuesday night, Gomez outlined how he would frame his race against the Democratic nominee, longtime Congressman Ed Markey, of Malden. He began his victory speech by taking the audience back to 1976.
“The first ‘Rocky’ movie had just debuted,” Gomez said. “The average price of a new home was $44,000. The national debt, which today is almost $17 trillion, was not even $1 trillion. Now, that was a lifetime ago. Me, I was just playing Little League baseball. And that was when Ed Markey first got elected to Congress.”
Gomez went on to promise to reach across party lines.
“If you’re looking for someone who will put principle before politics, and who thinks our country’s bigger than politics, come join my team,” Gomez said.
Gomez’s message that he is willing to work with Democrats appealed to Stephen Machado, who voted in Weymouth.
“I really love Scott Brown,” Machado said. “He was a middle-of-the-road guy. I don’t lean far right or far left. I tend to vote Republican but I like somebody who’s more in the middle. And if I look at the three candidates who are Republican, he just reminds me more of a Scott Brown where he just votes toward the middle.”
Gomez’s message that he is the newcomer to politics appealed to Sean Maloney, who also voted for Gomez in Weymouth.
“New blood, new ideas,” Maloney said. “He’s not entrenched in the overall scheme of the whole political scene here in Massachusetts.”
Within view of Gomez’s home in Cohasset, Leticia Jordan cited her reason for supporting him.
“Former Navy SEAL,” Jordan said. “My brother was a Navy SEAL and, you know, those are good guys.”
An outreach to veterans was an integral part of Gomez’s quickly assembled campaign. “They spread the word to family members,” said veteran Bob Ticehurst, who led the outreach effort. “It definitely got the vote out, which is really important, especially in a special election like this.”
Republicans who supported Gomez are encouraged by the fact that their candidate is facing Markey instead of Congressman Stephen Lynch. That’s because the South Boston Democrat would have competed for the same independent voters and Markey offers the starker contrast.
“Ultimately, what we’re going to start seeing is immediate contrast that was drawn tonight from Gabriel Gomez himself,” said Republican political consultant Jeff Stinson. “He said, ‘If you’re looking for a partisan, if you’re looking for a career politician, that’s not me. If you’re looking for someone with over 30 years’ experience in government, sure, Ed Markey might be your guy. But if you’re looking for change, if you’re looking to the future of our country, then you need to vote for Gabriel Gomez in June.’ ”
Gomez’s victory meant defeat for socially conservative Republicans who had backed Sullivan. Gomez’s other rival, Winslow, quickly rallied behind the winner in his concession speech.
“I came into this race thinking that I could mop the floor with Gabriel Gomez. Well he proved me wrong.” Winslow said. “I shouldn’t have counted him out so easily because Gabriel Gomez has been proving people wrong his entire life.”
Like Winslow, Gomez’s team was surprised by his drive and his discipline. Several shared the sentiments of his friend Craig Coffey.
“He was a relentless campaigner,” Coffey said. “I think he worked about 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and put a lot of time and effort and his heart into this.”
Coffey said the endorsement of former Gov. Bill Weld did not hurt, either.
Gomez’s challenge now is to beat a Democratic candidate backed by one of the best party organizations in the country ready to make sure Gomez does not repeat Scott Brown’s special election victory three years ago.