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The Next Scott Brown?

Gabriel Gomez, Massachusetts Republican.

May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Gomez embraces his awkwardness. A minute later in his speech, he made his pitch, leaning in toward the microphone with a roguish grin. “If you’re lookin’ for an experienced, slick-talkin’ politician, I’m definitely not your guy,” he said.

That’s self-deprecating, of course, but it’s also a shot at Gomez’s opponent. Markey is a 37-year veteran of the House, a liberal’s liberal who has all the well-heeled, left-wing positions of Ted Kennedy with little of Kennedy’s working-class appeal. (Last week, Markey disinvited his former House colleague Georgia Democrat Ben Jones from a D.C. fundraiser because of Jones’s outspoken support of the Confederate flag. Jones, the actor who played “Cooter” on The Dukes of Hazzard, told the Boston Globe that it wasn’t his old friend Markey but a staffer who actually made the call.)

Early in his congressional career, Markey was known as an anti-nuclear environmentalist. More recently, he’s staked out territory in the realm of telecommunications regulatory policy, and, as the Almanac of American Politics states, he’s “often inclined toward deregulation, though he can just as often be found siding with consumers.” Regardless, some of his biggest donations come from the entertainment and telecom services industries. Gomez’s goal is to cast Markey as a partisan insider who’s spent too much time in Washington.

“Congressman Markey’s been down there for 37 years, and he’s left of the left,” Gomez says. “He will just not be somebody who is going to represent all the people of Massachusetts and reach across the aisle and work with the other side.”

Markey won big in the Democratic primary, but the bitter fight against his fellow congressman, the more blue-collar Stephen Lynch, left some traditional Democrats feeling cold toward their nominee. The Gomez campaign is looking to peel off these voters by emphasizing his independence and his willingness to work with Democrats. It’s a tactic that’s worked well for the few Republicans who have won statewide in Massachusetts in recent years, Scott Brown and Mitt Romney chief among them. Gomez, who speaks Spanish, is also trying to find new supporters among Greater Boston’s Hispanic community.

What Gomez may be missing, however, is a conservative issue or two around which he can rally his Republican supporters. In late 2009 and early 2010, Scott Brown argued he could be the vote to stop Obamacare in the Senate, and he criticized the Obama administration’s response to the failed Christmas Day 2009 terrorist bombing attempt. Gomez, who crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon just minutes before the bombs there exploded, told me he doesn’t think Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have been read his Miranda rights so quickly. Gomez supports the Senate immigration proposal and says he would vote for another gun background check amendment like the one that failed last month. He also says he opposes many of the economically damaging elements of Obamacare, though he’s mixed on the idea of repeal.

“I guess ideally you could repeal it and start over because you have certain components obviously that people agree on,” Gomez says. “Preexisting conditions is just one of them. But if you can’t repeal it, you have to face the fact that we have to fix it and we have to address some of these issues like the medical device tax, among others. You can’t leave it as is.”

It’s not quite a pledge to be the deciding vote against Obamacare, but then this is a state that just voted to reelect Obama and threw out Brown in favor of his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. With Gomez already within striking distance of Markey, maybe simply being the Massachusetts moderate will be enough. ♦

Michael Warren is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.

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