Ed Markey speaks during a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 16, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo)
Democrats often have a hard time winning special elections for US Senate seats in Massachusetts.
But not Tuesday. Democrat Ed Markey won big.
Though it is by standard measures a Democratic state, Massachusetts special elections have produced more than their share of Republican senators. Indeed, from the 1940s forward, Edward Kennedy was the only Democrat to win a special election for a Massachusetts Senate seat—the 1962 race to finish the term his older brother gave up to assume the presidency.
The only Democrat, that is, until now.
When Massachusetts voters went to the polls Tuesday to elect a senator to finish the term of Secretary of State John Kerry, everyone was watching the state that shocked the nation in 2010 by electing Republican Scott Brown to finish Kennedy’s last term. But there was no surprise this time. Congressman Ed Markey, the Democratic nominee, beat Republican Gabriel Gomez by an overwhelming 55-45 margin.
Markey had run a relatively old-school Democratic race, and most polls conducted as the race was finishing gave him the lead. But Gomez, a wealthy private equity investor who self-financed his way into the Republican nomination, mounted an aggressive challenge as “a new generation of Republican leader with a great American story.”
Gomez got significant financial support from outside the state, including a boost from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who desperately wanted a Massachusetts win to promote the notion that Republicans are on their way to a Senate takeover in 2014.
Additionally, this contest played out during a period when Washington Democrats, including President Obama, were being battered by negative headlines and persistent congressional inquiries. That was tough for Markey, a House veteran who has served thirty-six years in Washington and, thus, was positioned as the “experienced” candidate at a time when that commodity is not always valued.
So it was a real race.
That’s what makes Markey’s win an important one.
Markey and Gomez campaigned as very different individuals with very different positions on the issues. Some effort was made to pitch Gomez as a moderate who could work with President Obama, in the spirit of Brown at his most mainstream. But Markey and Gomez found little in the way of shared ground—they clashed on everything from whether Edward Snowden should be labeled a “traitor” to the threat posed by big-money influence on politics.