Policy differences were nuanced between Democrat Ed Markey and the GOP's Gabriel Gomez in Tuesday's debate, the last before the US Senate election in Massachusetts. But the candidates' styles – policy master vs. fresh-faced outsider – could not be more distinct.
With a week remaining until the June 25 special election for John Kerry’s former US Senate seat in Massachusetts, the two candidates met Tuesday night in a debate that set the tone for the final days of the campaign: energetic, divisive, and at times downright petty.
As the conversation swept from NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden to the candidates’ tax returns to the merits of affirmative action, Democrat Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez bickered over policy nuances that in other states might be reserved for a Democratic Party primary.
Mr. Markey told Mr. Gomez, for instance, that he was galled by the fact that the Republican did not support a ban on the sale of assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.
“You’ve been completely misrepresenting my view on gun control,” Gomez shot back, citing his own support for legislation requiring extended background checks for potential gun owners – a bill that only four Republican senators voted for earlier this year. “I’m the one who’s going against the NRA,” he added.
And when the debate turned to affirmative action, both candidates rushed to support the policy.
“I don’t think we’ve reached the day yet where we can say that race doesn’t play a role” in public life, Markey said, while Gomez told the audience that “everybody should have equal opportunity to achieve the American dream.”
That provided a strange twist to the debate, says Marc Landy, a political scientist at Boston College, because even many Democrats are skittish about supporting affirmative action and the topic has not been heavily discussed in this campaign so far. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve heard a Republican express that kind of support,” he says.