On Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) defeated fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) in a Massachusetts primary, making Markey the Democratic nominee to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. In a June special election, Markey will face off against Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez, who is running for office for the first time. The winner won’t change the balance of power in Congress, but could change the political landscape heading into the 2014 midterms.
Markey has a strong record on reproductive rights, in stark contrast to Lynch, who dubs himself a “pro-life Democrat.” Lynch, along with a small block of other like-minded Democrats, voted against the Affordable Care Act and supported abortion restrictions during his time in Congress. Markey’s campaign was supported both financially and on the ground by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which applauded his win in a press release. “On behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America, our member activists and volunteers, we’re very pleased with the outcome of this race,” said NARAL President Ilyse Hogue. “Ed Markey was the only candidate who women can trust to protect our right to choose. Just as we saw in the 2012 election cycle, Americans will support candidates who stand for reproductive freedom. Massachusetts voters acted on their pro-choice values and rejected the anti-choice candidate, Stephen Lynch.”
Republicans, meanwhile, hope that Gabriel Gomez’s victory in their primary means they will have the same special election success they saw back in 2010, with the election of Sen. Scott Brown—a win that led to a tidal wave of Tea Party successes in the 2010 midterms.
Markey has already announced that he will be highlighting major policy differences in the campaign. “We have big issues that divide us,” Markey told The Republican. “I am pro-choice and he is not. I favor banning assault weapons and these dangerous magazines that turn them into weapons of war, and he does not. I support protecting Medicare and Social Security, and he’s ready to put it on the operating table … there are big differences between the Republican nominee and myself and I’m ready to have an eight-week debate over these big issues.”
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According to the paper, Markey has also asked Gomez to take the same pledge that Brown and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren took, to refuse allowing outside interest groups to run ads on their behalf. Gomez has turned down that request, signifying a possible tide of special interest dollars coming into play during this short, intense general election period.
With the community still reeling from the Boston bombings, Gomez will be inclined to focus not just on Markey’s decades as a politician versus his own fresh perspective, but his background as a Navy Seal and national security interests. A wealthy businessman and the son of immigrants, Gomez’s greatest challenge will be to paint Markey as part of the political apparatus in Washington that isn’t working without reminding voters that the self-made, “not a politician” outsiders elected in the last few years have largely caused the gridlock in Congress.
With a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, a one-seat loss wouldn’t create a major difference in voting. A Markey win wouldn’t get Democrats any closer to a veto-proof majority, and a Gomez win wouldn’t provide enough votes to flip decisions in the other direction. Yet this race could still be one of the most important Senate races in decades, simply for its symbolic value. If Markey wins, it would highlight the continuing dissatisfaction with a GOP more interested in scoring points and obstruction than in a government effectively. Meanwhile, a Gomez win could leave us wondering if 2014 will be 2010 all over again.