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Edward J. Markey, the veteran Democrat from Malden, grew a step closer to securing a seat in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night as he defeated U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, his more moderate challenger, in the Democratic primary election. Gabriel E. Gomez, a former Navy SEAL from Cohasset, defeated two other candidates to secure the Republican Party’s nomination.
Markey topped Lynch by 14 points, 57 percent to 43 percent. He opens the campaign for the June 25 special election as a heavy favorite over Gomez, a 1997 graduate of Harvard Business School who won 51 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, easily defeating former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and State Rep. Daniel B. Winslow.
But Markey, who has served in Congress for 37 years and has developed a loyal following in his suburban district, commanded the spotlight. As he thanked his supporters in a ballroom at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, he was flanked on one side by his family and, on the other, by Democratic power players Senator Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. After praising Lynch’s campaign, he turned his gaze to the race ahead.
“This election, ladies and gentlemen, will not be easy,” he told the crowd, warning that Super PACs, political influence groups that are not required to disclose their donors, were ready to descend on the Commonwealth to fund the Gomez campaign.
“Tonight, I call on the Republican nominee to keep the outside, undisclosed, unlimited special interest money out of this race,” he declared.
A frontrunner in the primary from the outset, Markey was buoyed by a slew of endorsements from influential Democrats, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the man who vacated the contested seat. Markey was also supported by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
On Tuesday, low voter turnout across the Commonwealth may have benefited Markey, who has enjoyed support from the reliable party faithfuls who composed much of Tuesday’s electorate.
But although experts agreed on Monday night that the deck appeared stacked against Lynch, on Tuesday morning, the South Boston congressman told reporters he was confident that he would win. Still, he admitted that he was worried about predictions of low turnout. After the polls closed at 8 p.m., it quickly became clear that, despite his strong, loyal base of constituents and union members, Lynch’s strongholds—blue collar cities like South Boston, Plymouth, and Brockton—would not produce enough ballots for him to pull through.
After the Associated Press called the race for Markey by around 9:15 p.m., Lynch phoned his opponent and pledged to throw his support behind the Malden congressman. Then, shortly after 10 p.m., Lynch addressed supporters assembled at a ballroom in Dedham.
“No one gave us a shot at this. Early on, they said, ‘Lynch is running a Braveheart campaign,’” Lynch said. Inviting laughter from the crowd, he added, “The only thing I didn’t like was that Braveheart gets killed in the end.”
Lynch then tried once again to rally his supporters, this time for Markey.
“Moving forward, the choice is now clear,” he said. “We start tomorrow united against the Republican nominee.”
Gomez is the son of Colombian immigrants and a more conservative Republican than former Senator Scott Brown, the last Republican to be elected to the Senate in Massachusetts. In his victory speech, he continued an effort to present himself as a fresh face, the antithesis of a long-tenured politician like Markey.
“I want to take you back in time,” he told his supporters, launching into a description of the year 1976, when Markey was first elected to Congress.
“That was a lifetime ago,” he told the crowd. “Me, I was just playing Little League baseball, and that was when Ed Markey first got elected to Congress.”
For the next two months, Markey and Gomez will continue to crisscross the state in an effort to gain support and endorsements in a race expected to attract national attention. Senator William “Mo” Cowan, former Chief of Staff to Gov. Deval L. Patrick ’78, has occupied the seat since January, when the governor appointed him interim U.S. Senator.
—Bailey Trela contributed to the reporting of this article from Malden.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.
—Staff Writer Sonali Salgado can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SonaliSalgado16.
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