Democrat Edward J. Markey hit back against Republican Gabriel E. Gomez Tuesday, defending his legislative response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in an attempt to wrest control of the campaign storyline from his Senate opponent.
“Gabriel Gomez says he is not part of politics as usual. But there’s nothing more usual, there’s nothing more cynical, than distorting one’s political record, and that’s what he is doing,” Markey told reporters during a visit to Roche Bros. grocery in West Roxbury.
Markey was responding to Gomez’s criticism Monday of votes against two resolutions honoring the 9/11 victims. Markey has emphasized that he voted for several similar resolutions commemorating the tragedy, but argues that those two attempted to politicize it.
“I voted eight times to honor the 9/11 victims,” Markey said. “When Dick Cheney and his allies sought to exploit a resolution by linking 9/11 to the war in Iraq, I voted no. And I would do it again.”
Markey’s firmer tone was a bid to end a squabble about two relatively obscure congressional resolutions that Gomez drove to the center of the race this week. A former Navy SEAL, he has seized on the resolutions to try to paint Markey as soft on homeland security.
At two events Monday with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, Gomez was particularly critical of Markey for being one of 16 congressmen to vote against a 2004 resolution that expressed sympathy to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and lauded first responders and international allies.
Gomez also knocked Markey for being one of 22 congressmen to vote against a similar 2006 measure.
In addition to the congressman’s comments Tuesday, Markey’s campaign set up a conference call with John Feal, a demolition supervisor who worked at ground zero and who voiced support for Markey.
“It’s sad that they use 9/11 like this,” Feal said.
Giselle Barry, a Markey spokeswoman, said the congressman has a “proud record” on homeland security issues. She cited his backing of an airline cargo security bill, his work to increase security at nuclear facilities, and Markey’s push for increased maritime security checks, among other post-9/11 accomplishments.
On the campaign trail in West Roxbury, Markey was joined by Edward A. Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, a union that has endorsed his campaign. Kelly said Markey has a record of supporting firefighters by pushing for federal grants for fire departments in poorer communities, such as Fall River, New Bedford, and Lawrence. “If we did not have that, we’d have a true public safety crisis in those communities,” Kelly said.
Despite Markey’s attempts to defuse Gomez’s attacks, the campaign seems to be entering a more contentious phase five weeks before the June 25 election.
On Wednesday, Gomez will unveil a scathing ad that labels the congressman “dirty Ed Markey.”
“Negative ads from dirty Ed Markey, smearing Gabriel Gomez, comparing him to bin Laden,” a narrator says in the ad, which shows clips of two of Markey’s ads attacking Gomez. “Now, Markey actually blames Gomez for the Newtown shooting. Disgusting. Thirty-seven years in Congress. Dirty Ed Markey.”
Despite what the ad says, Markey has not blamed Gomez for the Newtown, Conn., shootings. Markey has released his own ad that highlights Gomez’s opposition to an assault weapons ban and to limits on high-capacity magazines, “like the ones used in the Newtown school shooting.”
Markey has also issued an online video that shows an image of bin Laden next to an image of Gomez. The Gomez campaign has demanded that Markey take down the video, saying the juxtaposition is a disgrace since Gomez is a former Navy SEAL.
The Markey campaign has pushed back by pointing out that the bin Laden image comes from a video made by the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, which accused President Obama of trying to exploit the killing of bin Laden for political gain. Gomez appeared on MSNBC in August 2012 to defend OPSEC and spoke to Reuters about its activities.