Representative 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)
Massachusetts is, by standard measures, a Democratic state. But special elections in the Bay State have produced their share of Republican senators. Indeed, since the 1940s, Edward Kennedy is the only Democrat to have won a special election for a Senate seat—the 1962 race to finish the term his older brother gave up to assume the presidency.
So when Massachusetts voters go to the polls Tuesday to elect a senator to finish the term of Secretary of State John Kerry, the results will be watched closely for signals from the state that shocked the nation in 2010 by electing Republican Scott Brown to finish Kennedy’s last term.
The Democratic nominee in this year’s special election, Congressman Ed Markey, has run a relatively old-school Democratic race, and most polls give him the lead. But Republican Gabriel Gomez, a wealthy private equity investor who self-financed his way into the Republican nomination, has mounted an aggressive challenge as “a new generation of Republican leader with a great American story.” He’s gotten significant financial support from outside the state, including a boost from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who desperately wants a Massachusetts win to promote the notion that Republicans are on their way to a Senate takeover in 2014.
Additionally, this contest has played out during a period when Washington Democrats, including President Obama, have been battered by negative headlines and persistent congressional inquiries. That’s tough for Markey, a House veteran who has served thirty-six years in Washington and, thus, is positioned as the “experienced” candidate at a time when that commodity is not always valued.