(BOSTON) — Republican Gabriel Gomez is the underdog in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate special election. There’s no other way to look at it when you see the Democratic advantage in voter registration in the very blue state.
But Republicans point to Gomez’s dynamic story, as well as his youth and the public’s dissatisfaction with Congress, as reasons the GOP is dreaming of duplicating Scott Brown’s shocking upset win in 2010.
A Gomez victory would certainly be an upset. The June 25 special election has him pitted against Rep. Ed Markey, a well-established Democrat who has been in the House and campaigning in Massachusetts since 1976.
“I think he’s the underdog, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could defeat Markey,” Tufts political science professor Jeffrey Berry told ABC News. “He’s an attractive candidate with a winning personal story. He’s had success in the military and business worlds… His greatest weakness is that he’s a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.”
Gomez, 47, is the son of Colombian immigrants. He speaks fluent Spanish and often sprinkles his speeches and ads with Spanish. He is a former Navy pilot and SEAL, who also attended Harvard for his MBA and became financially successfully as a private equity entrepreneur. He was able to use that money to help his political career, loaning his primary campaign $600,000, which helped him air television ads.
He has run on a socially moderate but fiscally conservative platform, supporting gay marriage but saying it should be left up to the states. He does oppose abortion personally, citing his Catholicism, but hasn’t called for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.
Gomez supported Barack Obama in 2008 and when John Kerry was appointed secretary of state, opening up this seat to a special election, he wrote a letter in January to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asking for the interim appointment. In the letter he cited his past support of the president, saying he would support Obama’s positions on both gun control and immigration. His opponents jumped on it, but it didn’t seem to hurt him in the primary.
He hasn’t always supported the president. Gomez served as the spokesman for the controversial Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, which aired a 22-minute video three months before the election accusing the president of politicizing the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The group has been fundraising on his behalf.
Gomez is up against the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, who has the backing of Kerry and all the establishment Democrats in the state. Markey has been in the House since he was 30 years old in 1976. He’s a liberal Democrat who has focused on issues like the environment, women’s rights, energy, telecommunication and national security, amongst other issues.
“Recent history says Republicans do really well in Massachusetts in special elections,” longtime GOP strategist and Massachusetts Republican committeeman Ron Kaufman said. He cited Scott Brown and the victory last month by a Republican state legislator in a special election in the heavily Democratic town of Peabody.
“Voters like a stark choice between candidates,” Kaufman said, happily noting the headline on the Boston Globe Wednesday, which read, “Newcomer Gabriel Gomez to face off against veteran Edward Markey.”
“Voters are in record numbers upset with Congress. This is not the time you want to run for Congress after being in Congress since the second Lincoln administration,” he added.
In his victory speech, Gomez struck a bipartisan chord, telling the crowd, “If you are looking for someone who refuses to work with the other party, I’m not your guy… If you are looking for an independent voice, a new kind of Republican, take a look at our campaign. I’d welcome your support.”
Gomez also told supporters, “I will approach this job with a military man’s discipline, a father’s sensitivity and a businessman’s experience.”
Kaufman said that line would be the heart of Gomez’s campaign.
The true heart of the campaign, however, will be trying to paint Markey as a Washington insider who has just been in Congress way too long.
Massachusetts Democratic consultant Mary Ann Marsh said there’s no way this will be another election like the one where Brown upset Democrat Martha Coakley when Coakley and state Democrats did not aggressively take on Brown until it was too late.
“Ed Markey has to run the next seven weeks like his hair is on fire,” Marsh said. “If Massachusetts Democrats learned anything from 2009 and should have been learned long before that…no race is sure in Massachusetts no matter what. You have to run hard you have to run smart and you have to use every resource possible to make sure you win.”
Kaufman avoided comparing Gomez’s upset chances to Brown defeat of Coakley.
“Every race is different,” Kaufman said. “But, this is going to be a real race.”
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