In a contest settled on a hot summer day with low voter turnout, even by special election standards, Congressman Ed Markey defeated Gabriel Gomez by 10 percentage points and will make the leap to the U.S. Senate after spending 37 years in the House.
Markey beat Gomez, a Cohasset Republican and former Navy SEAL who attempted to cast Markey as a creature of Washington D.C. responsible for the country’s ballooning debt and political stalemates.
A Malden Democrat, Markey played to the Democratic base, chiding Gomez for his openness to approving Supreme Court justices even if they would not uphold the legality of abortion and knocking him for his opposition to a federal assault weapons ban.
Low turnout helps Gomez wins on Cape Cod
There weren't many bright spots for Republican Gabriel Gomez in yesterday's Special election except here where he ended up winning over half the Cape Cod towns by a 4-point margin over the North Shore Democrat Congressman Ed Markey.
“I want to hear a round of applause of Gabriel Gomez. We may disagree on the issues, but we do agree on one thing. We love the state of Massachusetts and we love the United States of America. America is the greatest country on earth,” Markey said.
Relating his working class upbringing, including his time behind the wheel of an ice cream truck, Markey said, “This son of a milkman is going to serve the state of Massachusetts in the United States Senate.”
Markey arrived on stage with his wife Susan Blumenthal at the Park Plaza to “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen and announced that Wednesday is their 25th wedding anniversary. In the Senate, he’ll join Sen. Elizabeth Warren to give Massachusetts the nation’s least experienced team in that branch.
The senator-elect rallied the crowd in the hotel hall saying people could be put to work “rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and tunnels” and preaching a vision where every person can “attend the college of their choice.”
“I will seek consensus wherever possible. Like you, I am tired of gridlock, but I will never compromise on our principles,” Markey said.
Gomez said the Democratic machine had outspent him and won.
“To all the great veterans in this Commonwealth, I apologize for coming up short on this mission,” Gomez said in his concession speech. “You’re the ones who deserve better. You stood by me.”
On a day when temperatures reached above 90 degrees for the third day in a row, many Bay State voters either decided to stay home or were unaware of their opportunity to cast a ballot in an election determining one of the state’s two representatives in the U.S. Senate. Once he is sworn in Markey will replace interim U.S. Sen. William “Mo” Cowan and take the seat formerly held by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The laggard enthusiasm among voters was in sharp contrast to the January 2010 special election for U.S. Senate when Scott Brown upset Attorney General Martha Coakley, only to lose the seat to Warren less than two years later.
On Jan. 19, 2010, 153,827 ballots were cast in Boston, a 42.8 percent turnout. On Tuesday, 96,352 votes were cast in the state capital, a 24 percent turnout.
President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats visited the Bay State in the lead-up to the election, while U.S. Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani stumped for Gomez in Massachusetts.
According to Boston.com, with 99 percent reporting, Markey had 639,262 votes and a 10-point lead over Gomez. Markey won with a wider margin, but much fewer votes than the nearly 1.6 million that put Warren up 6 percentage points over Brown in 2012.
Since 1948, the lowest number of votes received by a winning senator was 956,605, just enough for Leverett Saltonstall to edge Foster Furcolo in a 1954 election, according to a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin.
“The lowest turnout since 1948 in a statewide election was 1,777,276 in 1986,” said spokesman Brian McNiff, in response to a question from the News Service. “The top of the ballot that year was Gov. Michael Dukakis opposed by Republican George Kariotis. In that election, Dukakis-Murphy got 1,157,786 to 525,364 for Kariotis-Nikitas.”
“I thought Markey did a terrific job of getting the vote out in very difficult circumstances,” Dukakis told the News Service.
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh, who emphasized get-out-the-vote efforts after Brown’s upset victory over Coakley, said the timing of the election during the end of the public school year and following a tumultuous spring, created distractions for voters.
“There was a lot of competition for people’s attention around this election,” Walsh said. He said, “Every election is run in the context of the time it’s run.”
A little more than three years removed from her own bid for Senate, Coakley said, “We need Ed Markey to make sure we protect women’s rights,” and thanked the volunteers who got out the vote during a heat wave.
“In the last few days, you sweated for Ed Markey,” Coakley said. She said, “You didn’t stop and that’s why Ed Markey won, tonight.”
The Markey campaign raised about $9 million over the course of the primary and general election up to the last campaign finance reporting date, according to a campaign official, and over the five days leading up to June 25 the campaign organized 15,000 volunteers who attempted to make 3 million voter contacts.
Save an uncontested state representative election and a bid by third party candidate Richard Heos for the U.S. Senate seat, Markey and Gomez were alone on the ballot Tuesday. It was the third election for U.S. Senate since 2010. Markey will have to defend the seat just 17 months from now when the seat is up for re-election in November 2014. Kerry departed the seat in the midst of his six-year term to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet in January. Markey bested Congressman Stephen Lynch, of South Boston in the primary.
An environmentalist who opposes construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, Markey has captained committees or subcommittees overseeing telecommunications and natural resources in his nearly four decades on Capitol Hill. He will leave a Republican-dominated House of Representatives to join the Senate where Democrats hold the majority.
Markey’s departure from Congress will set off a scramble for political comers in the Fifth Congressional District – which curves around Boston’s suburbs from Winthrop to Holliston – to succeed the longtime incumbent. Several Democratic pols have already started fundraising.
Dukakis was in the crowd Tuesday night, as was Coakley, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Treasurer Steven Grossman and many other Democratic pols. Markey did not speak to the media Tuesday night, but he will speak to reporters Wednesday morning in the Boston area, a campaign official said.
Appearing on the Fox News Channel with Sean Hannity from the Gomez victory party, former Sen. Scott Brown said he thought the race would have been decided by 5 to 7 points for Markey.
“It’s a numbers game in Massachusetts. When you have 11 percent Republican enrollment, it’s very difficult,” Brown said.
Brown agreed with the host that Markey was not a stellar candidate, but said Gomez has nothing to be ashamed of in losing.
“Ed Markey is the consummate Washington insider. When you open up the Webster’s dictionary you see a picture of Ed Markey, so yeah, he didn’t run a good campaign. He did the old hide ‘n seek campaign. We had to go look for him. But bottom line is he’s now the senator-elect and bottom line is Gabe Gomez came out of nowhere, did a great job and should be very, very proud,” Brown said.
Asked whether another Republican would ever win a U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, Brown said, “That’s up to the people. It’s hard to say. Right now we’re 0 for 2 in the last year and half and we have to move forward so we’ll see what happens. You have 2014, 2016, so we’ll see what happens.”
Markey is up for re-election in 2014, but there is no Senate contest on the ballot in 2016. Warren’s term ends in 2018.