Sunday June 23, 2013

The special election for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts matches a veteran Democrat, Edward Markey, and a Republican newcomer, Gabriel Gomez. This second special Senate election in a little over three years has not electrified the state, but that doesn’t mean it is unimportant, and the decision voters will make Tuesday between these contrasting candidates will have state and national ramifications.

Mr. Gomez has referred to Representative Markey as a "poster boy for term limits" because of his 36 years in Congress. Alternatively, it could be said that his long career testifies to his effective performance. While in the House, he has been on the front lines of battles on Internet privacy, gun control, clean energy and many others, and if elected, his considerable experience will make him a good match with Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate last November.

As a congressman, Mr. Markey has been a force on issues of technology and communication in their infancy, writing and advocating legislation to protect the privacy of medical and cellphone records, and keep online predators away from children. He authored a bill providing increased Internet access for schools and small towns. Mr.


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Gomez has claimed that Representative Markey’s vote against reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act makes him soft on terror, but that vote, along with the revelations of recent weeks, testifies to his legitimate concerns about the dangers of government secrecy and surveillance.

Representative Markey was instrumental in the House’s passage of the "cap and trade" bill in 2009 designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions. He has been an advocate of the clean energy programs like solar that create jobs while reducing pollution and addressing climate change.

Mr. Markey is a consistent supporter of initiatives to reduce gun violence in America, a cause that has moved to the forefront following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. In contrast, Mr. Gomez opposes a federal assault weapon ban even though his state, to its credit, has one. The Democrat has long advocated a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as part of a federal reform package, and with that issue now before Congress he will be an effective force for pragmatic reform.

The son of Colombian immigrants and a private equity investor with a Boston-based firm, Mr. Gomez has an impressive background and résumé, and his experience as a U.S. Navy SEAL commands respect. His decisive victory in the three-way Republican primary attests to his charisma and the desire of voters to find a fresh face to revive their struggling party.

Mr. Gomez, however, has run into the same problem Senator Scott Brown did in his unsuccessful campaign against Ms. Warren last year. In trying to espouse Republican principles while also distancing himself from unpopular Republican leadership in Washington, Mr. Gomez has tied himself in knots explaining his stands on issues, such as women’s rights and the environment. His lack of clarity has made it difficult for voters to determine who he is and what he stands for, and has made it easy for Mr. Markey to portray him as just another "no" vote for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Should he be elected Tuesday, Mr. Gomez will face a steep learning curve as a member of a Senate minority too wedded to obstructionism. Should he lose Tuesday, we hope Mr. Gomez will stay active politically, gaining the experience the first-time candidate needs while shaping his political persona. There is a path to follow, as successful Republican elected officials in Massachusetts like William Weld and the late Paul Cellucci have been independent-minded and willing to work with the opposition party.

Many of Representative Markey’s perceived weaknesses are actually strengths, beginning with his experience in Congress. He is not flashy but has shown dogged determination in addressing complex issues that aren’t glamorous but are important. As a congressman who believes that government should play a major role in bettering the lives of Americans he would be a worthy successor to John Kerry, who left this Senate seat to become U.S. secretary of state. The Eagle endorses Edward Markey for U.S. Senate.