Gomez, Markey Spar in First Senate Debate

Gabriel Gomez and Rep. Edward Markey will face off in the U.S. Senate special election June 25.

Gabriel Gomez and Edward Markey engaged Wednesday in their first debate before the U.S. Senate special election this month, and the tone was markedly similar to the tone of the overall campaign thus far.

Gomez, the Republican Cohasset businessman and former U.S. Navy SEAL, and Markey, the Democratic Malden congressman since his election in 1976, jabbed at each other during the hour-long debate at WBZ-TV’s studios and sponsored by the news station and the Boston Globe.

Topics for the evening included gun control, health care, the economy, foreign policy, recent national political scandals, immigration and abortion.

Time and again, Gomez pounded Markey for his years in Washington, painting the congressman as out of touch with Bay State citizens.

“You are the poster boy for term limits,” Gomez said to Markey, claiming Markey hasn’t authored any legislation in 20 years. “In the private sector if you don’t do your job you don’t get a pay raise.”

Markey said Gomez was espousing “the same old stale Republican ideas” and tried listing his own legislative accomplishments when attacked by Gomez.

“I can go on, and on, and on with the number of laws that I am the author of, that I am the principle author of,” said Markey, calling Gomez’s line of attack “mythology.”

Early on the candidates went back and forth on gun control, with Markey hitting Gomez for not supporting bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“Massachusetts is the leader, not the laggard on the issue of gun control,” Markey said.

Gomez stated support for increased background checks but slammed Markey for invoking the shootings last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. for “political gain,” calling it “beyond disgusting.”

When discussing the impacts of the Affordable Care Act, Gomez said small business owners in Massachusetts are worried about its costs. Gomez said Markey didn’t support rolling back the tax in the bill on medical devices that impacts over 25,000 employees in the state.

Markey said he would support taking out the tax if there was an offset somewhere else, saying he would reduce tax breaks received by oil companies to do so.

“That’s the way you have to legislate,” he said.

When discussing the recent scandals that have rocked Washington in recent weeks, Gomez called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to resign for the “chilling” seizing of records for reporters.

On the topic of Internal Revenue Service employees targeting conservative groups, Markey said “anyone who did anything wrong at IRS should be found and fired immediately.”

But on the investigation into the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Markey said Congress should be conducting hearings to determine what happened instead of going after former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“This is a great example of putting politics and partisanship ahead of the people,” said Gomez. 

“You’re the one politicizing this,” Markey said.

Perhaps the most lively exchange came on the topic of abortion just before the debate’s conclusion. Gomez said he is “not going down there to change a single law” and called Roe v. Wade “established law” although he’s pro-life.

Markey called out Gomez for not having a litmus test for potential Supreme Court nominees on abortion.

“I would not vote for a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade,” Markey said. “Mr. Gomez does not have that position.”

Gomez said Markey once campaigned on a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

“If a judge comes in front of me and they follow the Constitution and they’re ethical and they’re pro-choice, if they’ve done a good job I’ll vote for them,” Gomez said. “If they’re pro-life, I’ll vote for them.”

“You just said to the women of this state you could support a Supreme Court nominee (who could overturn Roe v. Wade,” Markey said. “I don’t think that best serves the interests of the women of our state.”

The candidates will debate two more times before the June 25 election to replace U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

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