BOSTON — At a campaign stop Monday at McKay’s diner in Quincy, Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, got an earful from another veteran who had come in for breakfast.
“Take your act somewhere else, OK?” said Ralph Evans, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He blames the Republican Party for the war in Afghanistan.
“My country has been driven right into the ground by people of that party. My brothers in arms are getting their ass blown away because of what his party did,” Evans said. “No army in the history of the world has ever succeeded in Afghanistan. Alexander of Macedonia couldn’t do it. The British couldn’t do it. The Russians couldn’t do it. And we’re not going to do it. And all we’re doing is getting ourselves bled dry, bled dry.”
Evans ties Gomez to the Republican Party. But Gomez has come to the diner precisely to distance himself from Republican policies that have alienated many Americans. Gomez says he wants to go to Washington to move his party in a different direction.
“I’m a new Republican, and I’m going to make this a new Republican Party,” he said. “Now, I’m sure in the next few months, when I get down to D.C., a lot of my comrades in the Republican Party are going to think I’m a major pain in the butt, but I’m OK with that.”
As Evans hisses in the background, Gomez says if elected he wants to help his party by moving it in five new ways.
“I’m going to help [the Republican Party] appeal to all Americans, as opposed to the privileged few. I’m going to help them with gay marriage, I’m pro-gay-marriage. I’m a green Republican, I believe in climate change. I’m going to get more of them to come over on my side,” Gomez said. “I believe in immigration reform, I’m going to get more of my Republican counterparts to come along with me. And I believe in gun control and expanded background checks.”
Gomez pointed out that only four Republicans supported expanded background checks the last time the issue was up for a vote in the Senate. He promises to rally more Republicans and more conservative Democrats. He is trying to counter efforts by his Democratic rival Rep. Ed Markey to tie him to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and McConnell’s plans to obstruct President Obama.
“Well, Mitch McConnell sent out a fundraising email last week saying that he needs Gabriel Gomez in Washington, that Gabriel Gomez is a central part of his plan to take over the United States Senate for the Republican Party,” Markey said at the Hebrew Senior Life Center in Brookline. “And coupled with the Republican control of the United States House of Representatives, that would pretty much signal an end to the Obama agenda in our country.”
Markey was in Brookline to receive the endorsement of Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and niece of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. She argued that Markey, who has been in Congress for 37 years, would work with Republicans just as Gomez promises to work with Democrats.
“I think that Ed has demonstrated throughout his career ability to work across the aisle, and I think that’s a tremendous advantage in Massachusetts, to have somebody with the experience and the knowledge of how this very complex system works,” Kennedy said. “And I certainly saw that up close with my uncle Teddy. To master that process is really something that takes time and dedication.”
In a way, this U.S. Senate race is replaying some of the themes of the last one. Elizabeth Warren won in part because she successfully undercut Scott Brown’s appeal as an independent Republican. She did it by tying him to Mitch McConnell. Markey is reviving the strategy in the hope that it will appeal to Massachusetts voters once again.