Gabriel Gomez thinks the tide is shifting his way.
A new poll, commissioned by a Republican donor, shows Gomez and his opponent, Representative Ed Markey, a mere point apart in Massachusetts’s special Senate election, scheduled for June 25. And Gomez thinks the scandals haunting D.C. right now, from the IRS to Benghazi to the seizure of journalists’ phone records, will make Massachusetts voters wary of electing someone who epitomizes D.C. like Markey, a Maryland resident who has been in Congress since 1976.
“This is really turning into a D.C. army versus me and my army of Massachusetts,” Gomez says in an interview. “I think he’s running what you would call — and I’m biased obviously — a desperate, dirty, deceitful kind of campaign. It’s been negative ads from the beginning.” He adds, noting the new poll, “It’s like a complete shift in momentum in the last week and a half.”
He blasts Markey for bringing in D.C. mandarins, including DNC chairman and congressman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, President Obama, and Vice President Biden, to help campaign for him in the state. “This weekend he had Congressman [Xavier] Becerra come in from California to try to show he’s Latin,” Gomez says.
There is no doubt that Gomez has an uphill climb to win the seat. The poll showing Markey only a point ahead is an outlier — a Suffolk University poll released yesterday showed Markey seven points ahead of Gomez. But there are two debates left, both chances for Gomez, who did well in the two’s first debate, to gain more traction. The widely trusted Cook Political Report has had the race as a toss-up since the beginning of June,
The Republican candidate is new to the political scene, having run only once before, in a local race. (He lost.) He served in the military for nine years, first as a Naval Aviator and then as a Navy SEAL. He then attended Harvard Business School, and went to work in private equity. His work in the industry, Gomez says, has showed him how tough it can be for businesses to be competitive when they are burdened with D.C.’s onerous regulations.
Gomez decided to jump into politics because he was worried about the future that awaited his four school-age children. “I’m concerned,” he says, “that if we stay down the same path we’re on, then my kids and everybody else’s kids aren’t going to have the same chances I had when I was young to have their dream or at least chase their dream.”
Gomez, who is wearing his SEAL Trident pin and Naval Aviator wings on his lapel (and sits with the upright posture one might expect of a former military man), attended the Naval Academy. “I’d always been a good swimmer, and I always liked the water,” he says. Gomez was also influenced by the fact that John F. Kennedy had served in the Navy. “He was a Navy guy. He was a young guy who was charismatic. He was just a symbol of hope and what the country wanted at that time,” Gomez muses. When he read about Kennedy as a student, “I was just drawn to him.” (Gomez also names Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as political inspirations.)
After the Naval Academy, he became a pilot of Navy cargo and communications planes, off of aircraft carriers. “I love flying,” Gomez says, but adds that there’s one part of his service he doesn’t miss: “I never enjoyed the initial part of any parachute jump.” He hasn’t skydived recently (his wife has suggested that the sport isn’t a good choice for a father of four), but he knows one scenario where he’d skydive again in heartbeat. “I could be talked into it if George H. W. Bush wants to go do it,” he says, joking that they could do it for Bush’s 90th birthday, as the president did for his 85th.