WORCESTER — Hundreds filled Alden Hall at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday evening for a rally supporting congressman Edward J. Markey’s bid for the US Senate, but the candidate was not the primary attraction for everyone present.
“I miss Bill Clinton,” said Elena Crowley, a Milford resident who was excited to see the former president come to Worcester to support Markey. “He’s the best speaker, very smart, brilliant guy.”
Crowley, 53, said she grew up in Russia, in the Arctic Circle, but she has been a US citizen since 2002 and has been active in campaigns for many Democratic candidates. A singer and dancer, she said her dream is to perform with Clinton, who plays the saxophone.
She then demonstrated her skill by performing a few breathy bars of a Marilyn Monroe-style “Happy Birthday.”
Markey drew loud applause from the crowd, estimated by campaign organizers at 900, as he took the stage to introduce Clinton, whom he called “the man who rescued our country from 12 years of Republicans in the White House.”
People held aloft cameras and phones as Clinton took the stage, cheering and shrieking their excitement.
Clinton thanked the crowd for electing Elizabeth Warren to the Senate and called on them to do the same for Markey in the June 25 special election.
“This is really important,” he said.
Clinton gave a speech reminiscent of the one he gave supporting President Obama at the 2012 Democratic Convention, recalling in great detail successful policy initiatives from his years in office while contrasting them with Republican policies.
Clinton spoke of the increasing diversity of Worcester, the state, and the nation and of the growing interdependence of nations.
“Massachusetts, Boston, Worcester, we’re all strengthened by this growing diversity,” he said, before going on to describe the apparent disaffection of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev as one possible negative outcome when an immigrant, for whatever reason, is unable to feel truly at home in a new land.
The key, he said, is to maximize positive outcomes and minimize negative ones, something he said Markey would do.
Clinton addressed criticism from the campaign of Republican candidate Gabriel E. Gomez on Markey’s four decades in Congress, agreeing that he has served a long tenure.
“He sure has,” Clinton said. “He’s done a good job every day he’s been there.”
‘Massachusetts, Boston, Worcester, we’re all strengthened by this growing diversity.’
Warren preceded Markey with a brief speech in which she had harsh words for Republicans, whom she described as having fundamentally different views from Democrats.
“They say, ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own,’ ” she said of Republicans.
Warren also drew sharp contrasts between Markey and Gomez.
“Instead of getting someone who is a shill for big oil, we could get someone who is out there fighting for the environment,” she said.
Markey attacked Gomez for his opposition to strict gun control measures, tying the issue to the safety of the nation’s youngest citizens.
“The only technology that should be near a child in a school is a computer and not a weapon,” he said.
Gomez spent the day campaigning in Hopkinton, Attleboro, Southbridge, and Lawrence.
His morning began with a 5k run in support of ALS research, and then moved on to several “meet and greet” events in Attleboro — at the Farmers Market, eating lunch at the Bliss Brothers Dairy, and posing for photographs at a local fair.
Will Ritter, Gomez’s press secretary, said Saturday’s campaign stops were meant to portray Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, as a more authentic, locally focused alternative to Markey.
“We are focused on grassroots campaigning, retail stops, and putting that in contrast with Markey bringing in D.C. celebrities to give speeches,” he said.
In between bites of the Bliss Brothers hamburger special, Gomez said he was “honored and humbled” that Markey had brought big-name politicians like Clinton and Obama to stump for him. But he also criticized Markey for what he called “hiding in D.C. politics.”
Later at the fair, as kids lined up to ride a small zipline and slurped frozen treats, Gomez shook hands with supporters and posed for photos with anyone who asked.
One girl, Jennifer Green, a junior at Bridgewater College, saw Gomez and could not contain her excitement.
“I love you!” she said.
Gomez laughed. “See that?” he said. “Happens all the time.”
After he left Attleboro, Gomez was scheduled to speak at a Latino Town Hall meeting in Southbridge and to attend the Semana Hispana festival in Lawrence.Globe correspondent Nikita Lalwani contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.