QUINCY -- Gabriel Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, formally launched on Thursday his bid for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Kerry, positioning him as a Washington outsider and "new kind of Republican" who defies political labels.
The 47-year-old son of Colombian immigrants made his official announcement at an American Legion's Hall in Quincy, and planned later stops in the central and western parts of the state. The Cohasset resident also took his first questions from reporters -- after being kept away from the media by his campaign since releasing a video two weeks ago stating his intention to run.
Gomez said he favored term limits for Congress and a lifetime ban on lobbying by all former House and Senate members. Asked about the $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect Friday, he said no politicians in Washington should get paid until they resolve the fiscal stalemate.
While state GOP officials have pledged neutrality in the race, Gomez has the support of at least one high-profile Massachusetts Republican.
Kerry Healey, who served as lieutenant governor in former Gov. Mitt Romney's administration, appeared at Thursday's campaign launch and said Gomez was a new face in the party who could excite voters in the way that former Sen. Scott Brown did in his upset victory in the 2010 special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Noting his own family story -- his parents emigrated from Colombia a year before he was born and he learned Spanish before English -- Gomez said he had a "personal stake" in the immigration debate. He said he backed a bipartisan plan recently offered by eight U.S. senators that would offer a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants while also toughening border security.
Gomez rejected attempts to label him politically. "Sure, I'm running as a Republican, but I'm a new kind of Republican," he said in his speech.
Democrats have criticized him for his association with a group that released a controversial video that accused Obama of taking too much credit for the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin-Laden.