Like Brown, Gomez is a strong-jawed Republican candidate running as a fresh face. But he doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of the former Republican senator, who was rejected by Massachusetts voters in 2012.
Gomez’s opponent, Democratic congressman Edward J. Markey, has different reasons for being loath to utter Brown’s name. For Democrats, Brown conjures bad memories of the 2010 special election, when Brown drove his pickup truck fueled with anti-Obamacare rage out of nowhere and into Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. Instead, Markey preferred to focus on Gomez’s policies, which, he argued, did not at all resemble those of the sometimes unpredictable Scott Brown.
“They don’t,” Markey said. “That’s what this campaign’s going to bear out. That [Gomez is] an old-fashioned Republican thinker.”
Brown’s brief rise and fall looms over the June 25 special election for the Massachusetts seat. Spooked by early polls showing him with only a single-digit advantage, Markey and the Democratic establishment are kicking the party machine into gear to avoid another embarrassment and prove that Brown was a fluke. Local and national Republicans think they have an opportunity to turn Brown’s example into a precedent. The traditionally low turnout for special elections gives them another shot in the overwhelmingly Democratic state, and in Gomez they believe that they have a candidate with even better outsider credentials. Plus, he can legitimately say things like,“Yo soy Colombiano.”
Gomez — a former Navy pilot and SEAL — has clearly learned a thing or two from Brown, a National Guardsman who famously traversed the state in a barn jacket. Gomez is known to don a green bomber jacket, even to editorial board interviews.
“I’ve got it in the car,” Gomez said Wednesday as he stood outside Cape Cod Community College. “My green jacket, I’ve got it right here.”
Gomez reached into the back of an SUV and pulled the jacket over his suit, itself stuck with a Navy SEAL pin. Will Ritter, a spokesman for Gomez and former aide to Mitt Romney, joked: “The first time he got in the car he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to change out of this. I’ve got a suit in the car. I said, ‘What? That thing’s awesome.’ ”
“It does have my name on it,” Gomez said, pointing to the badge. “But yesterday I was at Fenway and I didn’t have the jacket on and people recognized me.”
Gomez is going to get a ton of attention. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has daily calls with him and is working hard to get donors and senators such as Florida’s Marco Rubio more involved. They are emboldened by early polls that show a competitive race and a résumé that, if topped with a cover of the strapping Gomez atop the Capitol dome, could be mistaken for a Republican romance novel.