BOSTON — In their contest for Massachusetts’ open U.S. Senate seat, Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Edward Markey continued to clash Tuesday over votes Markey cast against two resolutions honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
At the same time, Gomez ramped up his attacks on Markey in a new 30-second ad criticizing what Gomez describes as Markey’s “dirty politics.”
In the ad, a narrator says Markey has compared Gomez to Osama bin Laden and “actually blames Gomez for the Newtown shooting.”
“Disgusting. Thirty-seven years in Congress. Dirty Ed Markey,” the narrator says.
Markey has criticized Gomez for speaking out last year on behalf of the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc., a group that has criticized President Obama for taking too much credit for the raid that killed bin Laden.
An online Markey campaign video faulting Gomez for his work with the group briefly shows images of Gomez alongside images of bin Laden. The bin Laden images are taken from a 22-minute video produced by OPSEC.
Gomez, who has since distanced himself from the group, has called for Markey to take down the video.
In a television ad, Markey has faulted Gomez for opposing federal bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines “like the ones used in the Newtown school shooting.” The ad does not specifically blame Gomez for the shooting.
Gomez has said he opposes both such bans.
The ad comes as Gomez labeled Markey “one of the radicals in Congress” for his opposition to a pair of amendments honoring Sept. 11 victims and accused him of trying to turn the blame on Republicans.
“More than 95 percent of all congressmen across the country – Republicans and Democrats – voted for these resolutions,” Gomez said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s shameful that Congressman Markey tries to make everything partisan and political.”
Markey has defended his opposition to the 2004 and 2006 amendments, which he said were designed by Republicans, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney, to justify the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act. Markey voted for eight other amendments honoring Sept. 11 victims.
John Feal – a demolition supervisor who lost part of a foot in the World Trade Center attack and an advocate for injured first responders – praised Markey. He called the 2006 resolution “meaningless” to the 9/11 community.
“It’s sad that they use 9/11 like this,” Feal said to reporters in a conference call organized by the Markey campaign, referring to Gomez.
Gomez, a Cohasset businessman and political newcomer, conceded that the resolutions “won’t bring any of the victims back, and they won’t stop terrorism” but called them “the obvious and decent thing to do.”
The election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by John Kerry’s resignation to become secretary of state is June 25.
Markey said he opposed the 2004 resolution because it attempted to use the Sept. 11 attacks to justify the war in Iraq even though Iraq was not involved in the attacks.
The resolution mentions that “United States Armed Forces and Coalition forces have killed or captured 43 of the 55 most wanted criminals of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein himself.”
It also refers to the U.S. leading “an international military coalition in the destruction of two terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Markey said he opposed the 2006 resolution because it referenced the Patriot Act, legislation enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks to give law enforcement more tools to fight terrorism. Markey voted against reauthorizing the act in 2011 after having supported it 10 years earlier.
The 2006 resolution also mentioned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Markey called the 2006 amendment “a partisan ploy that divides our country and this Congress” during remarks he gave on the floor of the U.S. House at the time, according to the Congressional Record.
“The Republicans include in this resolution legislation that divides our country, not just Democrats and Republicans in Congress,” Markey said. “They include in this resolution the Republican border security bill, the PATRIOT Act, other bills that they know divide Democrats from Republicans and Americans from other Americans.”
Markey also voted to give former President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq, a vote Markey said he came to regret.
The 2002 Iraq authorization vote split Massachusetts’ all-Democratic delegation at the time, with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and others voting against it and then-Sen. Kerry opposing it, along with several members of Massachusetts’ House delegation, including Markey.
The following year, many of those who initially supported the war, including Kerry and Markey, would vote against the Bush administration’s $87 billion funding package for the war.
Gomez’s criticism of Markey’s votes on the resolutions is part of a larger effort by the private equity investor and former Navy SEAL to undermine Markey’s record on national security.
Markey has fought back, pointing to his efforts to require screening of luggage on airplanes and the screening of cargo in ships to look for nuclear materials.