Thursday May 2, 2013

BOSTON -- Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Gabriel Gomez rejected calls Wednesday by his Democratic opponent, Congressman Edward Markey, to sign a pledge to limit spending by outside groups on television, radio and Internet ads during the special election campaign.

The bickering over the so-called people’s pledge came a day after Gomez and Markey secured their parties’ nominations in the race to fill U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s former seat.

The Republican also challenged the Democrat to three debates before the June 25 election, the state’s third U.S. Senate contest in four years.

Gomez, a Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL, said Markey’s call for a spending pledge is disingenuous and pointed out Markey benefited from outside groups that poured more than $1 million into the primary race to help him defeat fellow U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch.

"Congressman Markey has spent decades in Congress building a war chest of outside special interest money to defend his incumbency," Gomez said Wednesday. "It is the height of hypocrisy for him to talk about a pledge."

Markey, speaking at a Democratic unity breakfast Wednesday, warned that without a pledge, Republican-aligned groups will pour millions of dollars in outside money into the race in the hopes of winning back a Senate seat.

A similar people’s pledge was signed last year by Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren in their U.S. Senate race. That pledge largely held, although the race, which Warren won, ended up being the costliest in state history. Markey and Lynch also signed a pledge during the Democratic primary.

Markey declined to say if he would unilaterally take the pledge if Gomez refused, but he suggested there could be no pledge without both candidates agreeing to it.

Markey, who lives in Malden, said there would be debates during the two-month general election. He said his campaign would be in touch with Gomez campaign officials to work out the details.

Despite the agreement between Markey and Lynch during the primary, outside groups still poured money into the campaign.

An Associated Press review of campaign finance records found that spending by the groups topped $2.2 million, nearly 84 percent of which went to help Markey.

Markey said the outside groups that worked to elect him publicly disclosed how much they had spent. The AP review showed the League of Conservation Voters spent the most, about $831,000.

Another group, the Committee for a Better Massachusetts, spent about $93,000 on radio ads to help elect Gomez.