Talk about your contrary impulses! Yesterday Massachusetts Republicans bet on the excitement of biography over the value of experience, putting a fresh new face in a serious place. Gabriel Gomez, whose only previous electoral outing was an unsuccessful race for Cohasset selectman, is now the GOP’s US Senate nominee.
The Democrats did just the opposite. Ed Markey is about as many decades removed as one can be from fresh-faced-ness and still be thought vital enough to serve a term or two in the US Senate. The long-time congressman ran as a reliable liberal stalwart who would fight the good progressive fights and push ahead on the issues that energize the Democratic base.
Gomez’s strong victory is particularly impressive because it came over two solid candidates. Former US attorney Michael Sullivan was better known, and with a decent geographical base. State Representative Dan Winslow was much better versed on the issues.
Neither advantage mattered when matched against Gomez’s appealing story: A Latino mega-achiever who, after military service as a Navy pilot and SEAL, went on to private-sector success.
On the Democratic side, a biographical message didn’t pay similar dividends for Stephen Lynch. His campaign was based on the notion that a guy who had pulled himself up by his ironworker’s bootstraps was best able to represent the average person in the Senate. Unfortunately for Lynch, average Democratic primary voters found themselves unconvinced of that proposition.
And so the general election phase of this Senate special starts. Markey begins as a plodding but experienced front-runner, an accomplished legislator, but one who fairly personifies the notion of Washington insider.
Gomez starts as the charismatic political newcomer, a candidate who will attract considerable curiosity and interest — but who will also have to survive the pitfalls that so often claim a novice who ventures out on the political high-wire.
Scot Lehigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.