Audio report above by WBUR’s Fred Thys; text report below by The Associated Press.
BOSTON — U.S. Sen. John McCain came to Boston on Monday to campaign and help raise cash for Gabriel Gomez, a fellow Republican and Navy veteran who is running in a special election for the U.S. Senate.
“I believe in this young man. I believe he is the next generation of leadership in this country,” said McCain of Gomez, 47, a Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL with no political experience.
McCain, an Arizona Republican, told a rally at a VFW post in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood that Gomez would be a bipartisan voice in the Senate, citing his support for wider background checks for gun owners and immigration reform among other issues.
Gomez is facing Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey in the June 25 special election for the seat formerly held by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Republican, who called McCain a “true American hero,” used the rally to criticize his opponent’s record on national security.
Gomez cited a vote by Markey against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 and said the Democrat voted against resolutions, in 2004 and again in 2006, that honored the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“One thing I can’t understand is how he voted more than once against a very simple congressional resolution to honor the victims of 9/11,” Gomez said. “To me it’s just unconscionable to have voted against something like that.”
Markey called Gomez’ comments on the Sept. 11 resolutions “despicable,” saying that he had voted for eight resolutions honoring the victims.
He said the two resolutions he voted against had attempted to link the memory of those killed in the attacks with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the broader war on terrorism, including the war in Iraq.
“I did not vote for the resolutions where the Republicans then stuffed into those resolutions actual statements saying that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11,” Markey told reporters Monday. “I can’t say that to the people of Boston.”
Markey made his comments at an appearance in Boston where he toured new development projects in the Longwood medical area with union officials.
Markey also said it was ironic that Gomez, who has criticized Markey’s long tenure in office and pushed for term limits, appeared with McCain, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986.
Gomez has called for a two-term limit for U.S. senators and has repeatedly said that Markey, who was first elected to the House in 1976, has been in Congress way too long.
But Gomez, with McCain standing by his side, said the difference was that McCain has been effective during his long tenure in Washington, while Markey, in Gomez’s view, has not.
McCain cited recent controversies in Washington, including the administration’s response to last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the IRS targeting of conservative groups, as further reasons to elect Gomez.
“It’s time for a big change in Washington and Gabriel will be part of that solution,” said McCain.
McCain also attended a fundraising luncheon for Gomez. Tickets ranged from $2,600 for lunch to $37,000 per person for a VIP round-table.
Gomez started the special election campaign at a distinct financial disadvantage to Markey, who had raised nearly $4.8 million in individual contributions through the last reporting campaign finance reporting period prior to the April 30 primary. Gomez had reported raising about $582,000 in individual contributions as of the last reporting deadline.
Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.