Longtime Democratic representative Ed Markey won a special Senate election in Massachusetts on Tuesday night, easily outpacing Republican Gabriel Gomez. Markey will serve the remainder of the term vacated by John Kerry, who resigned after being nominated as secretary of state.
Markey’s victory was expected. Even though Republican Scott Brown won a special Senate election in 2010, the Bay State remains a liberal stronghold, and Gomez, a first-time candidate, struggled to compete with the Democrats’ registration advantage and Markey’s prolific fundraising. Throughout the summer contest, Markey led every independent public poll.
“Back in 2010, it felt like Republicans were on the march,” recalled Eric Fehrnstrom, Brown’s former strategist, in an interview earlier this week. “Republicans had just won gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, and the president was bogged down with his health-care agenda. This time, Republicans don’t seem to be as ascendant.”
National Democrats were paying attention to the race in a way they never did during Brown’s insurgency. President Obama, Vice President Biden, and other favorites of the Left, including singer Carole King, campaigned for Markey. So did a slew of liberal groups. Conservative groups mostly sat on the sidelines and privately said the race was unwinnable.
Markey, who has been in the House since the Gerald Ford era, didn’t make many mistakes. “He was no Martha Coakley,” says Ryan Williams, a former Romney adviser, in reference to Brown’s fumbling Democratic opponent. “Gomez has a lot of appeal, and he [was] effective in framing this race as the outsider versus the liberal insider. But he’s still a Republican.”
Gomez, however, didn’t run as a typical Republican. He ran as that increasingly rare type of Republican — a proud New England moderate. He supports gay marriage, and on abortion, he’s personally pro-life but told voters that he wouldn’t fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. He’s also a supporter of the Gang of Eight’s bill and believes climate change is real.
In the coming months, look for Gomez to stay on the scene. The Harvard Business School graduate is only 47 years old, and he’s already making noise about challenging Markey next year, when the seat comes up for a full term. GOP operatives say he’s in the mix for next year’s gubernatorial race, too. With the GOP bench in the state so sparse, he’ll be a player.