Republican Gabriel Gomez, underdog in the Massachusetts special election for a US Senate seat, sought during Tuesday's debate to present himself as a fierce independent. Front-runner and US Rep. Edward Markey dove into his personal backstory to highlight his non-Washington side.
As the two candidates for John Kerry’s former Senate seat in Massachusetts blazed across nearly a dozen subjects in their second debate Tuesday night, a single question seemed to hover just outside the frame: What style of senator would each man be?
On the Republican side, businessman Gabriel Gomez repeatedly sought to frame himself as a fiercely independent thinker, ready to buck his own party on issues such as gun control, gay marriage, and equal pay.
Before a small audience in the WBGY TV studio in the western Massachusetts city of Springfield, he called himself a “green Republican,” said he would “talk across the aisle” to try to pass legislation on expanded background checks for gun owners, and promised a yes vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.
For longtime congressman Edward Markey (D), on the other hand, the debate was about giving his methodically delivered platform points a human face.
“I’m the first person in my family to ever go to college,” he told the audience, explaining that he drove an ice cream truck to pay his own way through school.
With public interest in the race low statewide and with recent polls showing Mr. Markey’s advantage in the race in the high single digits, both candidates scrambled to keep the criticisms against them from calcifying as the race marches into its final two weeks.
“These debates aren’t game-changers, but they help with messaging,” says Spencer Kimball, a campaign consultant who also teaches in the communication studies department at Emerson College in Boston. Mr. Gomez in particular, he says, “has tightened up his message to voters” since his fresh-faced arrival onto the political scene in the primary campaign earlier this year.