Kicking off the final days of the US Senate special election, Democrat Edward J. Markey and Republican Gabriel E. Gomez reached out to core constituencies and launched barnstorming tours of the state as they honed their final messages to voters.
Markey, who has already campaigned with President Obama, Michele Obama, and former president Bill Clinton, will be joined at a Dartmouth rally on Saturday by Vice President Joe Biden. The congressman will also be joined by the Democrat he defeated in the April primary election, US Representative Stephen F. Lynch.
Gomez plans to participate in a Newton fun run, visit campaign phone banks in Watertown and Wakefield, host a family barbecue in Wakefield, and meet voters at an ice cream shop in Middleton, before stops in Leominster, Lowell, and Dedham. On Monday, he will be joined at a Quincy campaign rally by Massachusetts Republicans’ most popular politician of recent years, former US senator Scott Brown.
“It is a sprint to the finish between now and election day with a barnstorming tour we’re calling ‘Putting People before Politics,’ ” said Gomez campaign adviser Leonard Alcivar.
Gomez’s slogan echoes the “People Over Party” theme that Brown used in the closing days of his unsuccessful reelection campaign last year. But Alcivar noted that the circumstances are different: Unlike Brown, who faced a dynamic Democratic newcomer, Elizabeth Warren, Gomez is challenging an incumbent congressman.
“Ed Markey has had 37 years to get something, anything done in Washington, and he hasn’t,” Alcivar said. “Gabriel Gomez doesn’t need 37 years. He’s just asking for 17 months.”
Seventeen months is the remainder of the Senate term that the winner of Tuesday’s election will serve, before facing reelection. The winner will replace John F. Kerry, who stepped down to become secretary of state.
Alcivar said the campaign has seen a surge in fund-raising in recent days, following the final debate Tuesday night, that has generated another $300,000 to pour into a television ad on the “17 months” theme.
Throughout the campaign, Gomez has suggested that Markey is an absentee politician who has become more of a creature of the Beltway than of his Malden hometown.
“You are Washington, D.C.,” Gomez told Markey during a debate.
On Friday afternoon, Gomez again poked fun at Markey’s residency on WRKO-AM radio.
“You don’t need a third senator from Maryland,” Gomez said. “I’m sure he’s also happy that the Orioles are climbing up on the Red Sox right now.”
That message seems to have resonated with some of the voters who came out to meet Gomez Friday morning at the Swanton Street Diner in Winchester, a town that narrowly voted for Brown in the last two Senate elections.
“Ed’s a nice guy, but you never see the guy,” said Danny Strange, who said he had an office right across the street from Markey’s district office.
“He hasn’t lived in that house in Malden since Moby Dick was a minnow,” said Danny’s mother, Roberta Strange. “I don’t get any warm and fuzzies.”
Markey is trying to use Gomez’s 17-month challenge against him. Markey’s new television ad, released Friday, shows Gomez appealing for a chance at 17 months in the Senate, as a voice-over intones: “Why would we ever trust Gabriel Gomez to represent us?”
The ad then highlights his opposition to an assault weapons ban and abortion, showing his comments in a debate in which he said he could vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade. “If they’re prolife, I’ll vote for them,” Gomez said.
The ad, however, omits the rest of his comments: ‘‘If the judge comes in front of me and they follow the Constitution and they’re ethical and they’re prochoice and they’ve done a good job, I’ll vote for them,” he also said. ‘‘There should be no litmus test.’’
With the available muscle of the state’s Democratic field operation, the Markey campaign has an ambitious agenda for the weekend. More than 15,000 volunteers plan to campaign for Markey, attempting to reach 3 million voters either by phone or by knocking on their doors.
On Friday, Markey held rallies with supporters in Pittsfield and Springfield after kicking off his day with an event at a housing complex for the elderly in Quincy, where he accepted the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
As about two dozen seniors looked on, Max Richtman, the president and chief executive of the committee, presented Markey with a pair of red boxing gloves and praised the congressman for opposing cuts in Social Security.
“I want to thank you for voting right for seniors, every time,” Richtman said. “Congressman, I know you’re a fighter.”
Markey’s event was designed to motivate elderly voters, one of the most reliable voting demographics, even in low-turnout elections.
“I’m going to be battling for them for the next four days, and then on the Senate floor, I will be battling to protect their families,” Markey declared.
Markey, 66, highlighted his opposition to the chained Consumer Price Index, a proposal supported by Gomez and by President Obama that would change the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for Social Security benefits. Obama argues that the change would more accurately reflect the cost of goods. But Markey contends it would cut payments to seniors.
“Chained CPI is to Social Security what a chain saw is to a tree,” he said. “We’re just going to be cutting down the available revenue for seniors to be able to live with dignity.”
Even though the event was the only one Markey held in the Boston area Friday, just days before the election, the Globe was the only news organization to attend, a reflection of the limited interest in the race.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin has predicted low turnout on Tuesday, but Markey dismissed that forecast by turning to the seniors standing around him and posing a question.
“Are you all going to vote on Tuesday?” he said, to a chorus of cheers. Asserting he has 15,000 volunteers working for him, Markey said, “We’re going to do our best to have a very high turnout.”
Gomez campaigned in Peabody, then at the Winchester diner, where he sat down for an egg sandwich and a fruit plate with the diner owner, Mario Navarro, who was born in El Salvador.
Many in the breakfast crowd came specifically to see Gomez and asked him to pose for photos with them.
“We need him so desperately,” said Karen Ann Martino of Sandwich. “And I think he can do it. He can reach across and fix a broken system. We need something new and different.”
Despite long odds — a new poll showed Gomez down by 20 points — the political newcomer is banking on his appeal as a fresh face with a remarkable resume to beat Markey.
Gomez, 47, of Cohasset, a son of Colombian immigrants, served both as a Navy pilot and SEAL, then went to Harvard Business School and became a private equity investor.
Still, despite the dispiriting poll numbers, Gomez sought to project confidence, asserting on WRKO that the race is now in the “low-single digits” and that he can win Lynn, Lawrence, Dorchester, Chelsea, and other traditionally Democratic strongholds if Latinos, veterans, independents, and conservative Democrats come out to vote for him Tuesday.
Gomez went to Gloucester Friday to receive the endorsement of recreational fishermen, then met Latino voters in East Boston and held a campaign rally with veterans in Revere.