Gabriel Gomez officially launched his run for U.S. Senate Thursday, giving voters their first chance to meet the Republican as he took his campaign across the state.
A businessman and former U.S. Navy SEAL, Gomez is not your typical Massachusetts Republican candidate. For example, there's the language he chose to open his campaign.
"Me llamo Gabriel Gomez, y no soy un politico," he told a small group of curious Republicans and enthusiastic veterans at an American Legion post in Quincy Thursday. "Estoy corriendo para ser senador de los Estados Unidos. And for those who don't speak Spanish, my name is Gabriel Gomez. I've never been in politics before, and I'm running for United States Senate."
Gomez's parents immigrated from Colombia the year before he was born. "And when I was born, my mom didn't know any English. I learned Spanish first," he said.
As Gomez talked of growing up in Yakima, Wash., where his father sold hops to beer companies, he faltered a bit as you'd expect in a first campaign speech.
"Sometimes I look back and wonder maybe I should have followed in his footsteps, or at least sampled more of his product," he joked to not much laughter. "Instead, at a young age, I felt a calling to serve my family's adopted country."
Gomez enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy, became a Navy pilot, and flew turboprop early-warning and cargo planes off carriers. "Now, even though things were going great, I had a different calling as a Naval officer," Gomez said. "I wanted to be a Navy SEAL."
In 1992, Gomez entered SEAL training in Coronado, Calif., then served on SEAL Team 4, based in Norfolk, Va. On his first detachment as a SEAL he met his wife, Sarah, a Peace Corps volunteer, on Saint Lucia. After nine years, Gomez left the Navy and enrolled at Harvard Business School. He is now an investment manager.
"If I were to invest in the U.S. government today, what I would see is a bloated, overextended organization that literally has no budget, runs at a significant annual loss and is over $16 trillion in debt," Gomez said. "I would never invest pension funds for Massachusetts public employees in a company like that."
Twelve years ago, Gomez and his wife moved to Cohasset where they are raising their four children.
Gomez is proposing a lifetime ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and said he supports term limits. He says Congress should receive no pay until it agrees to budget cuts to replace the automatic ones going into effect Friday. He does not believe Congress should raise taxes to balance the budget deficit.
He was raised Catholic, and he says by faith he's pro-life.
"This is a very contentious issue, I understand that, and I'm not going down to D.C. to change the law, but I'm Catholic and by faith I'm pro-life," he told reporters.
He said he would think that 40 years of judicial precedents would apply to Roe v. Wade, making it settled law.
Asked how he would vote on a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, Gomez said he is against any kind of discrimination.
"I think that if two people are in love they should be able to get married. I come from a very diverse background. I'm a first-generation American. I served in the military, one of the most diverse organizations in the country, so I've been fortunate," he said. "I've been able to serve with people of all different kinds of backgrounds, demographics. So all the beliefs that I have have been forged from not just by my personal experiences but also my experiences in the service as well as the business sector."
Gomez said undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship, but said the border should also be secure.
Billy O'Neill, an Army veteran from Quincy, said he came to meet Gomez to see if he was real.
"Anybody with his resume, a lot of people fake it. This guy's the real deal," O'Neill said. "And you know what I like about him? He's not a lawyer. He's not a politician."
Gomez is in a three-man race for the nomination against state Rep. Dan Winslow, of Norfolk, and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.
After reading about Gomez, Sean Cooper, who studied finance, braved the torture of the morning rush-hour traffic from Charlestown to Quincy to hear Gomez speak.
"I think he's the guy for me," Cooper said. "The other two seem a little bit too within the system, career politicians."
Gomez already has the backing of some professionals who have previously worked on the campaigns of former Sen. Scott Brown and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And he has the support of one of the leading voices for making the Massachusetts Republican party more inclusive: former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
"He's the new Republican that we are hoping to attract in our party," Healey said. "He hasn't been a politician before, but he's served his country his whole life. I think that's the kind of person who we really need, and Gabriel comes from a family that has experienced the American dream and he's really realized their dreams.
"I think that's a message that's going to be very strong for our party," she added. "He's open to progress on immigration reform. He holds moderate social views."
Healey likes that Gomez also holds conservative economic views.
Gomez is competing with another fiscal conservative and social moderate, Winslow. Of the three Republican candidates in what is shaping up to be a hotly contested race, Sullivan is the only social conservative.
This post was updated with Morning Edition feature content.
This article was originally published on February 28, 2013.
This program aired on February 28, 2013.