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Markey, Gomez Clash In Final U.S. Senate Debate

This photo provided by WGBH shows U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Gabriel Gomez, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, right before a debate moderated by R.D. Sahl, center, Tuesday, June 18, 2013, at WGBH studios in Boston. (AP Photo/WGBH, Meredith Nierman)

U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Gabriel Gomez, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, right before a debate moderated by R.D. Sahl, center, Tuesday night at WGBH studios in Boston. (Meredith Nierman/AP)

BOSTON — With just a week left in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate special election, Democrat Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez broke little new ground in their third and final televised debate Tuesday night.

But with some voters just tuning in to the race for the first time, the candidates made their closing arguments with considerable vigor.

Markey wasted little time launching into his central argument against Gomez: that the man who claims to be a new kind of Republican is pushing the party’s “oldest, stalest” ideas on abortion, guns and Social Security.

And Gomez found, perhaps, the sharpest articulation of his main argument: that Markey, a 37-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives, has been in Washington for too long and will do little to break the partisan gridlock.

“If you go down there, Congressman, nothing changes,” he said.

Analysts, though, said the debate probably did little to change the dynamics of the race with just seven days to go.

“Both candidates had the gloves off, they were very aggressive,” said Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University. But “I don’t think this debate will make any difference at all. Markey entered the evening ahead in the polls and he remains ahead, as far as I can tell.”

The most recent independent survey, released by The Boston Globe Sunday, showed Markey ahead by 13 points.

Campaign finance records suggest Markey and his Democratic allies are outspending Gomez and his Republican supporters by a ratio of roughly four to one.

And Peter Ubertaccio, a political scientist at Stonehill College, said nothing in the national political discussion has proven powerful enough to swamp the campaign and erase the Democrats’ traditional edge in Massachusetts.

In the Bay State’s last Senate special election three years ago, it was discontent with President Obama’s health care reform proposal that helped catapult Republican Scott Brown to a surprise victory.

On Tuesday night, debate moderator R.D. Sahl put Gomez on the defensive with his first question, asking the venture capitalist and former Navy SEAL why voters should trust him when he has revealed so little about his career.

Gomez attempted to pivot, saying the election is about “who the people are going to trust to actually put the people before party and politics.”

But Sahl said he would come back to the question “because frankly you didn’t answer it.” And Markey piled on, attacking Gomez for refusing to release a list of his clients at private equity firm Advent International.

“My vote record is completely transparent,” Markey said. “But with Mr. Gomez, we still don’t know who his clients are.”

Gomez said, later in the debate, that the firm doesn’t have clients, it has investors — including President Barack Obama, whose pension fund from his days as an Illinois legislator invested in Advent.

It was part of a larger attempt to suggest Markey does not understand the private sector — a claim Gomez made again when Markey downplayed the struggles of Telecom City, a development along the Malden River for which the Democrat obtained millions in federal funding.

“I think this is a great example of somebody who’s never had private sector experience, who’s never had a job up here in Massachusetts,” he said. “You know, analyzing an opportunity and not realizing that it wasn’t going to create what you said it was going to create.”

Gomez also worked, as he has throughout the campaign, to cast himself as a moderate Republican — saying his party is wrong on climate change and immigration reform.

And when Sahl asked Gomez if he supports race-based affirmative action, the Republican suggested he does.

“I think everybody should have equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” he said, adding that the “socially” and “demographically” disadvantaged “should have a chance…and if that entails giving them an extra benefit, then yes, I think we should give them that chance.”

Markey said he, too, supports affirmative action.

But if the pair agreed on many issues, the Democrat worked to draw sharp lines where he could.

The candidates, in the middle portion of the debate, asked each other a series of questions. And Markey focused, in one query, on Gomez’s opposition to bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Why, he asked, would a civilian ever need to fire 100 bullets in under two minutes?

Gomez said he respected the Massachusetts ban on assault weapons and pivoted to his support for expanded gun sale background checks — suggesting that, as a Republican, he would have a better shot than Markey at winning GOP support for the legislation and getting it passed.

That promise of change — of a different kind of politics — also found expression in Gomez’s call for term limits.

Markey pointed out, in response to the call, that Gomez had long-serving Republican Sen. John McCain in town recently to campaign on his behalf.

That provoked one of the sharpest exchanges in the debate.

Gomez said he’d told McCain that he should be term limited.

“No, you did not,” said Markey.

“Yes, I did,” said Gomez.

“Are you calling him a liar?,” Sahl asked.

“I’m saying that did not happen,” said Markey.

The final portion of the debate, which took place at WGBH-TV, focused on foreign policy. Markey suggested a cautious approach to Syria and said the U.S. should only impose a no-fly zone with the full support of its allies.

Gomez suggested the U.S. should support the rebel group best positioned to spread democracy.

Both candidates said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest the difficulty of imposing American-style democracy on other countries.

But by the end of the night, some analysts were already looking past the June 25 election.

Ubertaccio, the Stonehill College professor, said Gomez’s strong debate performance would not reshape the fundamental contours of the Senate race.

“But if he’s thinking that he wants a future in Massachusetts politics,” Ubertaccio said, “this was a very strong way to finish up this campaign.”

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  • Clint Cavanaugh

    Gomez seemed smug and arrogant and focused on important points such as, “They’re not clients, sir, they’re investors.” Ooooooh. All he did, in my opinion, was avoid giving any firm answers on where he stands on the issues. Can you spell “obfuscate,” Mr. Smartypants?

    • John Williams

      Why do you hate minorities?

  • jefe68

    With all due respect to Mr. Gomez, one senator from Massachusetts is not going to change the way things work in DC at this point in time. Congress has an approvial rating of 6% and there is no sign that anything is going to change. If Mr. Gomez seems to think he can change the extremism of his party I wish him luck. The regressive party, I mean the GOP, is on it’s way out only held up by the gerrymandering of districts and older white voters.

    Mr. Gomez is trying to play a game here by saying he’s a “new type” of Republican.

    Well I don’t buy that. If he was really truthful about wanting to make changes and not wanting to be tied to a regressive GOP why did he not just run as an independent? Of course it’s about campaign money, but you can’t have both ways.

    • dust truck

      He’s not really getting campaign money anyway. All this stuff about Markey “outspending” Gomez is not really about Markey having more than Gomez, but that the GOP really is holding back in this race.

  • Flitzy

    I think we’ve seen that Republicans can’t be trusted to run the government.

    Sorry Gomez, you lose.

  • Vandermeer

    Markey looked weak to me. He needed to discuss what the Democrats want to accomplish and that should include restructuring banks, returning loans to college students, creating jobs renewing our infrastructure both roads, ports and our electric and digital highways. He needed to talk about protecting our Environment from corporate greed and solving funding for Social Security by raising the cap on contributions for the wealthy. He needed to talk about the gulf between the rich and the poor. He didn’t mention what he an Sen. Warren would do. He played it safe and got hung up on whether Gomez told Mc Cain that he was against term limits. I don’t see Markey as a candidate with a vision. So Gomez’s attack mantra about 37 years had real clout. I’ll vote for Markey but he seemed like a tired replacement for John Kerry.

    • dust truck

      It’s not Gomez versus Markey: it’s “a vote for McConnell” versus “a vote for Reid”.

    • ChevSm

      “I don’t see Markey as a candidate with a vision. So Gomez’s attack mantra about 37 years had real clout.”

      I agree completely. This is the major problem I have with Markey.

      I voted for Obama and Warren but if the election was today I would not vote for Markey. He seems like an old, tired candidate without any new ideas or vision. While I don’t agree with Gomez on every issue, I do think he makes a strong point that a vote for Markey is a vote for more of the same.

  • Dowtin

    What a State……cannot believe there are people actually going to vote for this Markey fraud. Totally ignorant……. a real embarrassment to Massachusetts. I have never heard such misrepresentation of statements….all who vote for this idiot should assess their values……pure partisan ignorance. Maybe that will move us forward.

    • dust truck

      not from Massachusetts, huh?

  • John Williams

    Being a black man, I can tell you I don’t trust Markey at all. That never ending botox grin makes me sick. He is almost as bad a that lying half Indian Warren. How could anyone be so stupid to vote for either one of them. Gomez is pro minority…. a vote for Markey tells all blacks you are a racist. Pure and simple.

    • dust truck

      Considering your profile never existed before posting on this story, I call shenanigans on all of your claims.

    • ACSMA

      You’re clearly not a black man. You’re just posing as one to try to make black men look bad. You’re probably a racist who is sick of being called a racist so you’re pretending to be black and throwing wild accusations of racism to make it looks like people get called out for racism unjustly. It’s pretty obvious and not working. We see right through you.

  • John Williams

    Oh, and I forgot….. what is the reason Markey never served his country? Was he scared? Gomez is a Navy seal, Markey wasn’t even a boy scout……. disgusting.

    • dust truck

      Considering less than 1% of Americans served the country, I’d say Markey is pretty much about as normal as you get.

      Or did you forget that there hasn’t been a draft in this country in 40 years…?

      • John Williams

        So you’re a non-veteran racist too….. really nice, you should be proud of yourself.

        • ACSMA

          There’s something seriously wrong with you.

        • dust truck

          …? what?

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