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Markey, Gomez face off in first Senate debate

Republican Gabriel Gomez, left, and Democrat Edward Markey met in the first of three televised debates.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Republican Gabriel Gomez, left, and Democrat Edward Markey met in the first of three televised debates.

In the first debate of the US Senate general election, Republican Gabriel E. Gomez launched into offense, again and again attacking Democrat Edward J. Markey as the distillation of everything that is wrong with a sclerotic US Capitol.

“You are basically Washington, D.C.,” Gomez said. “I’m sorry sir, but you are.”

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Markey held his own, brushing off the attacks and repeatedly returned to two issue areas where he diverged from Gomez: his support for gun control measures that Gomez opposes and his support for abortion rights, which he juxtaposed with Gomez’s professed personal opposition to abortion rights.

“You saw someone representing the oldest Republican ideas,” Markey said in a scrum with reporters after the debate. “He obviously does not believe that a woman should have a right to choose.”

“He does not support banning assault weapons. He does not support banning the high capacity magazines that attach to those assualt weapons,” Markey said.

Right from the beginning of the debate, Gomez went on the attack. After thanking the debate moderators and sponsors, he turned to Markey and said, “After 37 years in Washington, D.C., welcome to Boston.” Markey’s residence and longevity in Congress has been an issue on the trail.

The discussion pivoted on gun control for much of the first half-hour, with a lively exchange on the issue.

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“I want to go down to Washington to fight the NRA,” Markey said.

“I oppose the NRA on expanded background checks,” Gomez responded, saying we “need to fix this problem.”

Gomez reiterated his support for a bipartisan piece of legislation that would expand mandatory background checks for gun purchases. That legislation, sponsored by Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, failed in the Senate earlier this year.

Markey argued that the bill is the minimum that ought to be done on gun control, noting it was supported by a West Virginian. He said a Senator from Massachusetts should support broader gun control measures in the age after the shooting at the Newtown, Conn. elementary school.

Later in the debate, Gomez attacked Markey for being too partisan during his almost 37-year tenure in Washington. Gomez said Markey voted with his party 99 percent of the time and hadn’t recently passed his own legislation.

“I have dozens of bills I have passed with Republicans over the years,” Markey replied. “This whole idea that Mr. Gomez is going to be bipartisan and my basic philososphy is not bipartisan is totally wrong.”

Later, in the scrum with supporters, Markey said that he didn’t think Gomez “understood the legislative process.”

The debate ended with a robust exchange about abortion.

“I’m Catholic and I’m personally prolife,” Gomez said, noting though that he would not change any laws on the issue.

“I couldn’t be more clear: I’m not changing any law on abortion,” he said to reporters after the debate.

During the forum, Markey noted that Planned Parenthood has endorsed him and emphasized he supports abortion rights. He asserted that Gomez could support a Supreme Court justice who might overturn Roe v. Wade.

The special election will be held on June 25.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.

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