Massachusetts voters head to the polls Tuesday to elect their next U.S. senator.
Democratic Congressman Ed Markey and Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez are vying for the chance to fill the seat formally held by Secretary of State John Kerry. State officials expect low turnout, but the two candidates did their best Monday to drum up last-minute support.
For decades, voters in Ed Markey’s hometown of Malden have sent him again and again to Congress. Monday night, some of them rallied to send him to Washington again, but this time as senator.
"Let’s all make it happen by electing Malden’s own Ed Markey to the United States Senate," said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, who introduced Markey on an outdoor stage in front of the Malden YMCA. Markey reminisced about how the Y was once the armory, and his time playing high school basketball in the gymnasium.
"It is here, ladies and gentleman, where I made basketball history by averaging three points a game for the Malden Catholic basketball team," Markey said to laughter and applause.
At almost 67 years old, and in Congress for more than half of those years, Markey has been targeted by his Republican opponent for having been in Washington too long. But Markey Monday night invited history, trying to evoke a long line of Democrats, one he hopes to extend.
"Something special started to happen, began in 1932 and my mother summarized it in one word: Democrat," Markey said. "All of a sudden the Democrats were putting on the books programs like Social Security and Medicare."
About 200 people listened to Markey’s speech. Some came for the free ice cream served out of a truck like the one he drove to help pay for college. One of Markey's supporters, Peter Levine, was disappointed with crowd.
"I don’t think people realize how historic this is. Not only for the state, but the city of Malden," Levine said. "For a senator from Townsend Street. I don’t think people realize how important this is. It’s just a feeling I’m getting. Or we’d have 10,000 people here right now."
Gabriel Gomez ended his last day of campaigning at a rally in Quincy with the last Republican from Massachusetts to win a U.S. Senate seat: Scott Brown.
About 200 people turned out for the rally at a restaurant. Brown used his speech to try to fire up the base. Not all Republicans were happy to see the moderate Gomez win the nomination, and Brown appealed to those Republicans who might be considering a protest vote.
"You’re either voting for Markey or Gomez," Brown said. "So you have a choice. Don’t waste your vote, don’t waste your vote."
The Gomez campaign is aware of the tremendous odds they face against the grassroots network being deployed on Tuesday by Democrats. But Gomez predicted victory.
"This is going to be a low turnout, they think," Gomez said. "But I tell you one thing, our side, we have given our side, Democrats, Republicans, independents, a reason to vote for someone. That is different from what they’ve done. What they have done is they have tried to mislead people and give them a reason to vote against somebody. I’ll tell you, it’s easier to get people to go the polls to vote for someone than to vote against somebody."
At his phone bank in Hyannis earlier Monday, Gomez tried to persuade an undecided voter in Hull to go to the polls and vote for him.
"Hey Charles, it’s Gabriel," Gomez said. "No, I understand. Well, I totally appreciate that. I think that if you don’t vote, you’re just going to have the same thing that’s going on in D.C. You want to have a chance to getting it better. I hope you go vote. I hope to get your vote tomorrow, sir."
After putting the phone down, Gomez turned to his volunteers and said, "He’s still undecided." The place exploded in laughter.
WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reported from the Markey campaign, and WBUR’s Fred Thys reported from the Gomez campaign.
This program aired on June 25, 2013.