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A Massachusetts Race Worth Paying Attention To

A good deal of the attention on electoral politics this week focused on Elizabeth Colbert Busch’s strong debate performance against former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In a congressional seat that has been Republican for three decades, Busch is leading by nine points less than a week before the special election (May 7). And no wonder; Sanford is a person of flawed moral character and bad judgment. (The first time Sanford’s son was introduced to the woman who broke up his parent’s marriage was on a stage after Sanford’s primary victory, where Sanford appeared with his sons and his mistress-turned-fiancee. That alone very nearly qualifies as grounds to vote against Sanford.)

But something else occurred this week that is notable, but has gotten significantly less attention. The Republican Party of Massachusetts nominated Gabriel Gomez to challenge Democratic Representative Ed Markey in a Senate race to replace John Kerry. (The election will be on June 25.) 

Gabriel Gomez is relatively young (47), Hispanic, moderate, and a former Navy SEAL and successful businessman. Ed Markey is someone who was elected to Congress in 1976, has no significant legislative achievements he can claim credit for, and is nearly a generation older than Gomez. “He’s liberal, he’s uninspiring, he’s boring, he’s completely unaccomplished,” GOP consultant Ryan Williams told National Review’s Katrina Trinko. Two separate polls have Gomez trailing Markey by four and six points respectively, with higher favorability ratings than Markey.

Representative Markey has significant advantages, from money to running in a deeply blue state, and he’s still the favorite. But it’s an off-year election, which generally favors Republicans, and anger at Washington is very high among voters in every state. Ed Markey hasn’t faced a challenging race since the mid-1990s. This time it’s different. And we saw in 2010 that Massachusetts is capable of surprises. This race is worth paying attention to.