What you need to know about Gabriel Gomez

The new GOP nominee in the race to replace John Kerry looks strong, but has plenty of problems

Topics: Massachusetts, Ed Markey, John Kerry, U.S. Senate, 2013 Elections, Gabriel Gomez, ,

If a secret cabal of scientists designed the perfect politician for today’s GOP from the DNA up, it might look something like Gabriel Gomez, who won a GOP primary last night to face off against Democrat Ed Markey in a special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The bilingual first-generation former Navy SEAL is a Harvard Business School graduate with a successful business career, some moderate political stances, and a penchant for running marathons. He crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon just a few minutes before the bombs went off last month. While stationed in South America in the early 1990s he met his furutre-wife, who was working in the Peace Corps at a school for students with special needs. “I’m exactly what the American dream is all about,” Gomez said in an April GOP debate against two other Republican challengers.

And yet Democrats don’t seem particularly nervous. “Congrats Gabriel Gomez! The next losing republican senate candidate from MA!” one operative tweeted. Why? First of all, this is Massachusetts after all, a true-blue state that went 61 percent for Obama last year despite having a native son on the Republican ticket. And while Scott Brown was able to pull off an upset in 2010, that election was a rare perfect storm: Democrats had a surprisingly weak candidate, they largely ignored Brown until the very end, and he was buoyed by that year’s Tea Party wave.

Secondly, Gomez is more vulnerable that his biography lets on. While he’s pro-marriage equality, he’s anti-choice in a state that is certainly not. And Democrats plan to use his private equity career against him, already dubbing him “Mitt Romney Jr.” He has no political experience and isn’t necessarily a natural. The conservative Boston Herald wrote that Gomez looks “amateurish on the stump, especially in the debates, and his one-note ‘I’m not a politician, I’m a Navy SEAL’ campaign theme already seems worn out. He is definitely not reminding anyone of Scott Brown.” He’s also backtracked on liberal positions on immigration and gun control after writing a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick asking to be appointed to the Senate seat and promising that he’d support Obama in both areas.



Yet after 2010, Democrats are taking no chances. In a blistering statement released last night, the DSCC, the campaign arm of Senate Democrats, tied Gomez to the GOP’s “extreme right wing views,” saying the candidate “sides with the big banks over consumers, and would support a Republican agenda that would cut Medicare and Social Security.” On his career in private equity, the group used similar language as Democrats used against Romney, saying Gomez “built his enormous wealth on the backs of hardworking middle class families.”

But perhaps the biggest open question in Gomez’ resume is his work with a group called Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, which attacked President Obama for politicizing the work of the Navy SEALS who conducted the Osama bin Laden raid. The campaign was widely compared to the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry and one of the group’s leaders said in the past that Obama was not born in the U.S.

Gomez served as spokesperson for the group and was one of its most visible faces, but he’s now trying to distance himself from them. “Like anything else, I can’t control who all those guys are,” he told the Boston Globe. “I’m not part of that group. I was just asked to go on a radio and TV show and talk about two points.”

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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