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Markey Beats Gomez: Central Mass. Experts React

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

 

US Congressman Edward Markey emerged tonight to claim the US Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, beating newcomer Gabriel Gomez. He takes the podium with his wife, Susan Blumenthal, Tuesday night in front of supporters.

US Congressman Edward Markey will return to Washington, DC, next year, but will take up the business of Massachusetts in the US Senate, after beating Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez by 10 points in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. By 9:15pm, the race was being called in favor of the Congressman, and at 9:20pm Markey tweeted his thanks to the state of Massachusetts.

See how Central Mass. towns voted in Tuesday's special election, as well as in the 2012 and 2010 senate elections in Massachusetts, here.

GoLocalWorcester spoke with a variety of national and Central Mass political experts to get their fresh take on the results and what they see as the political landscape for a Markey heading to the Senate, as well as what the outlook might be for Gabriel Gomez.

Jennifer Duffy, Senior Editor, The Cook Report

While we don't yet have final results, Gomez had a more than respectable showing given that he is a first-time candidate, a Republican running in a solidly blue state and what he was up against.

Unlike Scott Brown in 2010, Gomez struggled to raise money. National GOP donors never really embraced his candidacy, although that had very little to do with Gomez and more to do with 2012. Of course, the Tea Party didn't embrace him, but that is a net positive. And, there are very few GOP surrogates who could come campaign for a guy who was very much running outside the party.

Then, of course, Democrats pulled out all the stops here. Democrats outspent Republicans almost two to one on television and more than two to one on spot count. Democratic outside groups put more than $750,000 into voter contact and GOTV efforts, while there wasn't much visible activity from Republicans. Plus, Markey got help on the trail from the President, the First Lady, the Vice President, former Pres. Bill Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The question is why Democrats used every weapon in their arsenal. First, Markey hasn't had a race since 1992 and his organization, campaign infrastructure and campaign skills were rusty. Second, many Democrats felt the need to vindicate their loss to Scott Brown in 2010. Others felt that special elections are quirky enough that they just couldn't take any chances.

Gomez made some unforced errors during the campaign (e.g., pond scum), but he improved a lot between the first and third debate. His campaign wasn't harshly negative, which is the hallmark of someone working to preserve his/her political future. This race did not disqualify Gomez if he wants to take another shot at Markey (or run for another office) next year.

Tom Finneran, Former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER

Neither candidate caught fire, leaving Ed Markey a big advantage as an incumbent Democrat here in blue blue Massachusetts; if neither candidate is lighting it up, then name recognition and campaign funds will usually carry the day; Ed Markey had more of each.

Give the man in the street interview to a Massachusetts voter and recite the following names---Kennedy, Kerry, Kirk, Brown, Cowan, Warren, Markey, and Gomez; I’d make a sizeable wager that a sizeable number of voters could not name our current Senators.

The Republicans continued a strange yet growing phenomenon of nominating someone with little or no political experience; Democrats have done it too---witness Elizabeth Warren and Deval Patrick. I was surprised that Gomez won the Republican primary, beating out Michael Sullivan and Dan Winslow, each of whom had broader and deeper political resumes with some notable achievements. Apparently the voting public has such a visceral distaste for politicians that they will embrace a complete novice rather than someone who has actually held office. Political experience and achievement used to count for something. Now each party gives us parachute artists, with absolutely no grounding in public affairs. Call it amateur hour.

Watch for young Joe Kennedy to surface the next time around the block.

And now watch for an explosion of interest in Ed Markey’s Congressional seat. This should be a really intense Democratic donnybrook. Thirty seven years of incumbency can create a lot of political appetite in county and state office holders. Young and ambitious candidates will flock to this once-in-their-lifetime opportunity.

Special thanks to Steve Lynch, Ed Markey, Dan Winslow, Mike Sullivan, and Gabe Gomez. They stood for office in front of the rest of us. It’s a hard task. Thankless too. They gave us ideas and they gave us choices. You may not have liked any of them. But they stepped forward. Congratulations to Ed Markey and thank you to them all.

Robert Boatright, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science, Clark University

No real surprises here. Democrats have a structural advantage of about 6-8 percentage points in Massachusetts, and Markey won by slightly more than that, it appears. In a low turnout election it’s hard to know exactly what will happen, but I think the lack of spending and enthusiasm on the Republican side late in the campaign indicated that Republican internal polling showed Gomez had little chance.

The results in the race track the results of the last governor’s race pretty closely, except, of course, that turnout was so much lower. Markey did a little worse than Warren among blue-collar voters and actually a little better on the North Shore and in some of the white-collar Boston suburbs, particularly those he represented in the House.

A few unusual things about the race:

First, there was some question about how effectively Markey would be able to use the campaign infrastructure that the Warren campaign developed. Markey was a less exciting candidate and couldn’t rely on the same sort of enthusiasm that Warren generated. Ultimately, though, I think he did a good job of setting up a ground game in the state’s liberal enclaves and larger cities and of using the same model as Warren but in a lower-key sort of way.

Second, I think Gomez made a mistake in not signing the “people’s pledge.” He was likely hoping that there would be a substantial outside spending buy for his campaign by Crossroads or another large Republican-leaning organization. While there was some advertising by conservative groups, I think in the end Markey benefitted more from outside spending that Gomez did.
Third, I think Gomez did have an effective line of attack on Markey. The problem Markey had all along is that he is a very accomplished, well-respected member of Congress, but his expertise has been in areas like pollution control, telecommunications policy, and other areas that are difficult to explain in sound bites or short TV commercials. So the guy has done a lot – probably more than anyone else in the Massachusetts delegation – but, ironically, when Gomez attacked him for not doing anything, he couldn’t come up with a quick response that would stop Gomez. I think Gomez’s lack of specifics about what he would do undermined this line of attack, however.

You asked me what Gomez does next. I don’t think he did well enough to have secured any particular future for himself in the GOP. He kept things reasonably close and drew some national attention to the race, but I don’t think he left a positive enough impression on voters to position him for anything else. Scott Brown’s failure to give him much help will also likely be discussed at some length should Gomez run for anything else in the future.

So now Markey has to prepare himself for his 2014 reelection campaign, and Republicans will need to figure out if they can do any better than this or whether they’ll give Markey a free ride and focus their attention elsewhere.

David LeBoeuf, Democratic State Committee member, Chair of the Worcester Ward 6 Democratic Committee

This election really came down to turnout. It certainly wasn't as high as I would like, but the partnerships between the Markey Camapign, Democratic City Committee, and organized labor that was able to hit it home. What helped is that our candidate had a message that people were familiar with and had already approved in 2012.

This election certainly strengthens Worcester's position and demonstrated again the key role out city plays in determining the direction of the Commonwealth.

Gomez just didn't inspire the same rage that Scott Brown fed off of. Maybe it's because times have changed. It's more likely because people prefer progress to obstruction. (Note: LeBoeuf was a voter protection coordinator for the Markey Campaign.)

David Lewis Schaefer, Professor of Political Science, Holy Cross College

 

As a Republican running in an overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic state, and as a political novice challenging a longtime incumbent Congressman, Gabriel Gomez ran a creditable campaign. Bear in mind that with the exception of Scott Brown’s having previously won a special election, Massachusetts has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Ed Brooke, whose last term of office ended in 1979; and the state’s House delegation is 100% Democrat. Hence, Gomez faced long odds. His campaign was handicapped in addition by a lack of financial support from the national Republican party, in contrast with the vast outpouring of support (both financial and personal) from national Democrats for Ed Markey.

 

In retrospect, refusing to sign the so-called “People’s Pledge” agreeing not to accept out-of-state money worked against Gomez, since Markey received much more such money than Gomez did. But Gomez should not be faulted for this decision, since given the original odds against him, he had no choice but to go for a “Hail Mary” and hope to exceed Markey’s support. Apparently, however, the national Republican party and its allies decided – unwisely, in my opinion – that Gomez’s chances were too slim to justify a major investment, even though there were no other major races this year to compete with it.

 

While it is unlikely that anything Gomez said during the debates or elsewhere would have changed the outcome of the race, he would have done better by hammering away at Markey more consistently on the issue of national security – in view of Markey’s having voted, as Gomez pointed out, against the PATRIOT Act, as well as (originally) against the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (because of its failure to authorize unionization). This point might have had more appeal to Massachusetts’ majority of independent voters following the Boston Marathon attacks. Additionally, Gomez did little to articulate a set of economic policies he would push for in Congress so as to reduce the unemployment rate and move the national as well as state economies out of their doldrums. Instead, Gomez relied on an “outsider-vs.-insider” trope that was never likely to have much appeal to Massachusetts voters, while allowing Markey to hammer away on the abortion issue, where Gomez’s wishy-washy stance (personally pro-life but “no litmus test” for judicial nominees) did him little good.

 

Still, given Gomez’s largely gaffe-free campaign, his personal attractiveness, his military background, his Harvard M.B.A., his business success, and his status as the son of recent Latino immigrants, he has certainly established a foundation for the future pursuit of either a seat in Congress or statewide office. Meantime, Ed Markey can be counted on to continue being a spokesman for the left wing of the Congressional Democratic Party, as he was during his long tenure in the House. He and Elizabeth Warren will have as uniform a voting record as the Senatorial delegation from any other state, or more so. Although he is a political “liberal,” Markey ran a tactically “conservative” campaign in which he avoided making any daring statements, confident that given the state’s political alignment, he would then be almost certain of victory. And the national Democratic party, having learned from Martha Coakley’s errors in taking a Senate seat for granted, went all out to prevent such an upset from occurring again.

Grace Ross, former MA Gubernatorial candidate and GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER

This result means that we're back in our traditional position of two Democrats as senator, and probably will be for a long time.

On a day that the Supreme Court gutted a big part of the Voting Rights Act and the immigration bill is looking increasingly punitive, it's important to remember that we're moving toward a society where minorities are becoming bigger factors. A smart democracy welcomes those changes and is wise about elected leadership—one that pays attention to the people it represents and smoothes the way.

I am concerned about the turnout, being that it was quite low. For Elizabeth Warren, what mattered was the historic turnout more than the numbers. I worry about what the low turnout means in terms of the engagement of the electorate.

It's a bad sign in terms of participation and engagement of the folks that see themselves as being the hands, arms, and legs of campaigns in Massachusetts, yet they did not manage to engage the electorate. They did not manage to make them feel like their voice mattered or like someone was listening to them. They did not impress upon them the importance of making their voice heard. And in this very bad economy when there are a great many shifts going on, the fact that people are not participating in larger numbers is profoundly dangerous.

Markey's election is better for the people of Massachusetts, it's a better representation of the state's political stance. The interesting thing is that the majority of people in Massachusetts are unenrolled, or independent. I think that's a statement from voters that they are more concerned with a candidate's politics than their party. Their leaders are profoundly part of them, and their natural focus is to elect someone that will represent them and their values, not to vote based on parties.

On the other hand, people who make their lives politics and are in the middle of it all are more partisan than ever! They have to be one way or the other, but once they see themselves more as representatives of the people rather than having an Us Vs. Them mentality, we'll be in a better place. But it's not clear to me right now that people that run for office get the idea that their job is to be a representative and to care about what people want and need.

Mary Walz, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Massachusetts

Congratulated Markey and issued the following statement:

“The election results clearly demonstrate that women’s health remains a key priority for Massachusetts voters,” said Martha (Marty) Walz, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts president. “During the campaign, Gabriel Gomez dodged questions about where he stands on issues important to Massachusetts women and families. In contrast, Ed Markey has consistently stood up for women and their right to make their own health care decisions. The election results show that voters trust Ed Markey to protect women’s health. He will be a tireless champion for women and their families in the Senate.”

 

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