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As voting nears, Senate race finally heats up

Campaign workers in Massachusetts are used to thanking their volunteers down the chilly November stretch with hot coffee and handwarmers.

On Monday, they got ice cream trucks and misting fans. With the onset of another heat wave, the otherwise room-temperature Senate special election between US Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat, and Republican private equity investor Gabriel E. Gomez finally sizzled, literally, if not politically.

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The candidates’ campaign staff, already fatigued by the compressed special-election calendar, showed signs of wilting Monday as temperatures reached the mid-90s.

“The only momentum I have right now is sweat,” one Markey staff member said.

The US Senate special election, the start of which was stunted by the heavy February snowfall, will finish Tuesday in early summer heat, with the two campaigns left guessing at how the hot weather could affect their voter-turnout plans. The anemic voting rate they expect will probably be suppressed further by the high temperatures.

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US Representative Edward J. Markey, the Democratic nominee, thought the blistering temperatures would feed into his organizational strengths. In the previous four days, the campaign called or knocked on the doors of 3 million people, he said Monday.

“We are going to be calling them all day, saying, ‘Tell us what you need in order to get to the polls’,” the Malden Democrat said.

At the Pickle Barrel Restaurant and Delicatessen in Worcester, media representatives who had been waiting for Markey’s noon appearance on a sun-baked sidewalk retreated inside the air-conditioned eatery when he failed to show up on time, due, he said, to a Turnpike traffic jam.

By the time Markey appeared in Malden for an election-eve rally, supporters were basking in the cooling relief of the misters and grabbing free popsicles from an ice cream truck, a tidy bit of symbolism for Markey, who once drove one.

Gomez spent much of the afternoon indoors, visiting cafes in Brockton and Braintree where the air conditioners were cranked up high and no one talked much about the heat.

But when he got to Hingham to stand outside and wave to voters at a rotary on Route 3A, there was barely a sea breeze to be felt, even though the ocean was only a few hundred yards away. Supporters who had been standing out with signs for hours looked as though they had not put on enough sunblock, their faces red and slick with sweat.

The candidate, a former US Navy SEAL who had seen his fair share of tough conditions, however, never broke a sweat.

“I’m just fortunate,” Gomez explained. “I’ve got a metabolism. I can go for a long time and not have a bead of sweat come down me.”

“It does drive my wife crazy,” Gomez added with a laugh. “It took me a long time to concede that we would have to get AC in our house, because I really didn’t think we needed AC.”

Gomez said he did not know how the heat would affect who went to the polls. Would the expected high temperatures change voter turnout?

“I don’t know. It wouldn’t have an effect on me,” he said with a smile.

On top of the weather, the sports fan slice of the electorate has been largely consumed with the Bruins’ bid for the Stanley Cup. Markey’s last rally of the day finished with plenty of time for voters to get home for the game at TD Garden. Gomez scheduled a 6:50 p.m. rally in Quincy, followed by a game-watching party at The Fours nearby.

“I think that, in Massachusetts, there are two things that people think about: sports and politics. And I think they do both every day,” Markey said.

On Election Day, another New England pastime, grousing about the heat, will probably join that list.

Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at james.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter
@jos-reports
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