BOSTON — The U.S. Senate candidates are heading into the final weekend of the campaign, at times drawing modest crowds, at times drawing hardly anyone at all.
Republican Gabriel Gomez started Friday at a retirement community in Peabody, where approximately 50 seniors joined him.
Seniors are a favorite audience of candidates, in part because they vote reliably. Gomez has been accused by his Democratic opponent Ed Markey, as well as the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee funding ads against Gomez, of wanting to cut seniors’ cost-of-living increases, as President Obama is considering.
“There are some changes out there that have been proposed,” Gomez replied. “One has been by President Obama. He came out with what’s called a chained CPI, and that is where you index the growth in Social Security and Medicare benefits to a different inflation rate. But again, it has no effect for those that are receiving their benefits right now. It’s for me, my kids, my generation, my kids’ generation.”
Gomez has generally been willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt on recent revelations that the National Security Agency has been tracking phone calls of tens of millions of Americans, as well as the internet activities of Americans who are in touch with anyone who is the target of NSA surveillance abroad. On Friday, he expressed a more skeptical view than he has before.
“Personally, I’m disturbed by the fact that the NSA has been out there snooping on 110 million Americans,” Gomez said. “I could see if something has risen to an imminent danger or a national security level … that we have to put that aside for a moment to get information, but the way that it’s been done in such a broad sweep, to me, is what scares me.”
Gomez is a first-generation American, the son of Colombian immigrants. Friday, he explained more than he has before about how he learned to speak English as a child.
“I learned English literally going to school,” Gomez said. “When I was put into kindergarten, my mom still hadn’t learned English yet. She was starting to learn it, going to the grocery store and watching TV at the time, and then making friends with some of the neighbors that we had at the time when I was really young. I learned three or four words she taught me: please, thank you, water, and bathroom.”
Audiences dwindled at Gomez’s later events.
At a diner in Winchester, about 20 people were waiting to speak to Gomez, and more trickled in. This same diner hosted former Republican Sen. Scott Brown in his race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren last year. Then, the place was packed with potential voters and with media. On Friday morning, you could move about easily. There were no television cameras.
At a later event in Gloucester where, in front of the perfect backdrop of the dying fishing port, Gomez promised to listen to fishermen if he goes to the Senate. Exactly five people were there to hear him.