BOSTON — In case voters weren’t paying attention, and turnout suggested many weren’t, his name is Gabriel Gomez. And now only Ed Markey stands between him and the United States Senate.
“My name is Gabriel Gomez, and I’m a proud Republican,” Gomez said, reciting his full name for the second time during a five-minute chat with reporters outside the new go-to, post-election Broadway T stop in South Boston Wednesday morning. The reporters already knew who he was, but part of Gomez’s strategy now is to make sure everybody else does too.
The newly minted face of the Republican Party captured the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday by defeating two better known names in Massachusetts Republican politics. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan was supposed to be the favorite, and Rep. Daniel Winslow has been active since his days with the Romney administration.
But it was Gomez who easily prevailed by a margin of more than 28,000 votes over runner-up Sullivan. He also considerably outspent both his primary opponents, tapping into his own bank account for $600,000 to get to the general election. Now, with a seat up for grabs in the U.S. Senate, the national money should start to flow.
On the Democratic side, Markey rolled fairly easily to the nomination over delegation-mate U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch. After 36 years in the House and a few flirtations with trying move up, Markey stands on the cusp of filling John Kerry’s (and Mo Cowan’s) shoes.
If Markey is something old and blue, Gomez is new and borrowing some pages from the Scott Brown playbook, with a twist.
Both are young and photogenic with military backgrounds – Brown’s a colonel in the JAG Corps of the Army National Guard, Gomez was a Navy SEAL. Brown had political experience from his days in the state Legislature when he ran against Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2010. Gomez lost a bid for selectman in Cohasset, but has more business experience and personal wealth than Brown. And just as Brown tapped into the national Tea Party angst at the time to open a spigot of financial resources, Gomez is positioned well to take advantage of his Colombian heritage and the GOP’s post-2012 realization that the growing Hispanic voting bloc, concerned about middle class issues as well as immigration, can no longer be ignored. Massachusetts Democrats say they cleaned up last election cycle among ethnic minorities and will likely have a rebuttal to Gomez’s appeal to Hispanic voters.
Public Policy Polling released its first assessment of the Senate general election matchup Friday, and Gomez trailed Markey by only four points, 44-40. Sixteen percent of voters said they were still undecided, and 32 percent had no opinion of Gomez yet.
“I have no idea who he is or where he stands, and in way that can be an advantage,” former Gov. Michael Dukakis predicted on election night, expressing a sentiment shared by many veteran Democrats at Markey headquarters.
Still, winning for Republicans at any level in Massachusetts is no easy feat, and after Brown’s upset in 2010, Democrats know they can’t coast. Markey and Lynch came together Wednesday morning for the traditional display of post-election party loyalty, and by the end of the first day of the general election campaign the battle lines were pretty well drawn.
Gomez, running heavy on his biography, has tried early on to exploit voter dissatisfaction with Congress and turn “Eight-Track” Ed Markey’s nearly four decades in Congress into an albatross.
Gomez’s refusal to reprise the Brown-Warren People’s Pledge has given Markey the opportunity to hammer away daily on the issue of campaign finance reform and the potential for unlimited outside money from undisclosed sources flooding into Massachusetts to influence the election. While Markey tried to spin his experience into a positive, he has also cast Gomez as a pro-life opponent of national gun control who is ready and willing to cut Social Security and Medicaid.
Anemic voter turnout for the primaries didn’t make either party feel good, but Democrats took heart knowing that 350,000 more registered voters pulled ballots to vote in the Democratic primary than in the Republican contest, an indicator of the challenges Republicans routinely face in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry technically still has a general election to win, but with only token opposition her victory on Tuesday over Rep. Nick Collins for 1st Suffolk Senate district seat marked an historic shift of political power from the Irish Southie enclave to Dorchester. Collins – at one point on Tuesday night declared the winner before the vote totals began to swing – waited until Wednesday morning to concede a 378-vote defeat to Forry, a Haitian-American who will soon occupy a seat held by names like Bulger, Lynch and Hart.
The highlight of the week may have Tuesday’s election, but before voters headed to the polls and politicians flocked to election night parties, the place to be seen and heard was on South Boston’s Fish Pier Monday morning.
So many elected officials and fishermen showed up to rail against new federal catch-limits on fisherman, including both Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Mo Cowan, that by the time Marshfield Rep. Jim Cantwell’s turn at the podium arrived there was little left to say. “I feel like Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth husband on their wedding night,” Cantwell began. “I know what I’m supposed to do, but not sure I can keep it interesting.”
Bay State fishermen are warning that new catch limits put in place Wednesday and limiting the fishing of certain species of cod, haddock and flounder by as much as 78 percent could cripple the $2 billion industry in Massachusetts.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration went forward with the limits anyway, calling them necessary to prevent overfishing and rebuild scarce fish populations. Not even a call from Gov. Deval Patrick to Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett at the White House could change NOAA’s approach.
Frustrated that fishermen from his hometown of Gloucester are being held hostage by federal regulators, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr closed the week expressing his hope that the same wouldn’t happen to state funding for local road repairs.
The Senate met briefly on Thursday afternoon to rubber stamp a $300 million borrowing bill for local road projects, increasing Chapter 90 funding by $100 million over last year. Though already a month late, lawmakers say they want to finalize the bill and get it to Patrick’s desk for his signature as soon as possible, although their definition of soon, at least on this issue, appears different than the conventional one.
Knowing that Patrick has expressed some reservations about increasing Chapter 90 funding without a significant new revenue stream, Tarr worried that the Chapter 90 bill could fall prey to tax policy politics.
“It is my hope the Governor will not hold this critical bill hostage to a larger tax proposal that is no longer viable,” he said.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Gabriel Gomez’s victory makes it feel a little like 2010 all over again; power shifts from Southie to Dorchester; and politicians rally with fishermen but get overrun by new catch limits.