In their debate Wednesday night in the Massachusetts Senate special election, Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez and Democratic Rep. Ed Markey each took every opportunity to brand the other as a product of his national party out of step with the state’s voters. At every turn, Markey characterized Gomez as being in lockstep with national Republicans and Gomez cast Markey as a “hyperpartisan” creature of Washington.Both men, vying to fill the Senate seat formerly occupied by Secretary of State John Kerry, have been making similar attacks on each other since winning their respective primaries in April. They immediately came out swinging in Wednesday’s debate.
“Congressman Markey, after 37 years in D.C., welcome back to Boston,” Gomez said in his initial remarks.
“You’re going to hear a lot from Mr. Gomez about how he is a new kind of Republican, but you’re going to hear the same old stale Republican ideas,” responded Markey.
Once the introductions were out of the way, the pair moved on to a discussion of guns. Markey accused Gomez of standing with the National Rifle Association and congressional Republicans by opposing bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“We need to tell the NRA that the NRA now stands for ‘Not Relevant Anymore’ in American politics,” Markey said. “That is a huge dividing line. I want to go down to the United States Senate to fight the NRA. … Mr. Gomez supports the NRA and their positions on those two issues.”
Gomez countered by citing his support for the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation, which Markey dismissed as the “minimum” step Congress should take. Gomez also said gun legislation would require a “bipartisan” effort, which he described Markey as incapable of working on.
“You are the most hyperpartisan congressman in the last 40 years. You have voted with your party 99 percent of the time,” said Gomez.
Markey and Gomez stuck to this playbook as they went on to discuss other national issues including the conflict in Syria, the economy, immigration, abortion, and the trio of recent Washington controversies: the Benghazi attack, the IRS’ alleged targeting of Tea Party groups, and the Department of Justice obtaining journalists’ phone records. Gomez used every opening he could find to characterize Markey as a product of a partisan, dysfunctional Washington culture.
“There’s a lack of transparency and there’s an overbearing, arrogant attitude about D.C., about all of D.C.,” Gomez said to Markey as he argued Attorney General Eric Holder should be forced to resign as a result of the DOJ scandal. “You’ve been down there for 40 years. You are basically Washington, D.C. I’m sorry, sir, but you are.”
Gomez also emphasized his background as a former Navy SEAL and questioned Markey’s record on national security. Markey tried to defend himself from Gomez’s various attacks by emphasizing bills he said he helped pass, specifically in national security. He characterized his history of supporting successful legislation as proof he’s able to work across party lines.
“My entire career is premised on working with Republicans to pass bills,” Markey said.
At every opportunity, Markey returned to his main line of attack, predicting Gomez wouldn’t deviate from the Republican Party agenda. As evidence of this, he pointed to donations Gomez received from a PAC backed by Newt Gingrich and from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“They want Mr. Gomez down there to get the majority to ultimately further the gridlock that they have fostered,” said Markey.
Gomez countered these jabs by describing himself as a new breed of conservative. When Markey brought up McConnell and Gingrich, Gomez quipped the congressman should have run against them instead.
“I’m an absolutely new kind of Republican,” Gomez said.
TPM’s Polltracker average shows Markey leading Gomez by just over 10 percentage points. The special election is June 25.