Massachusetts Rep. Edward J.  Markey won the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State John Kerry’s old Senate seat Tuesday, advancing to special election campaign against Republican Gabriel Gomez, which the Democrat will be heavily favored to win.

With 60 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Markey, who led Rep. Stephen F. Lynch 57 percent to 43 percent.

Three years after Massachusetts Democrats nominated Attorney General Martha Coakley, a flawed candidate who was upset by Republican Scott Brown in the race for late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democratic leaders sought to clear the field early for Markey, the liberal dean of the state’s congressional delegation. Both Kerry and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee backed him from day one.

Markey’s establishment support scared away all Democrats except for Lynch, a conservative Democrat and former ironworker who represents a South Boston district.

Markey was never really threatened by Lynch. He outraised and outspent his opponent by a substantial margin, and made no major missteps. Lynch and Markey kept the campaign mostly cordial until disputes over homeland security arose in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, roiling the final week of the race.

Lynch is a former union president who has enjoyed strong support from labor throughout his career. In a blow to his campaign, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO declined to endorse in the Democratic race, leaving Lynch without the group’s organizational heft.

Markey praised Lynch Tuesday night, saying he looks forward to working with him moving forward.

"Steve ran a tough, energetic campaign that gave voice to the concerns of working people across Massachusetts, and his entire team deserves a great deal of credit," Markey said.

Kerry stepped down from the Senate to become the nation’s chief diplomat in February, triggering a special election to replace him. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) tapped his former chief of staff Mo Cowan as Kerry’s interim replacement. Cowan will step aside this summer, clearing the way for the eventual winner of special election, which will take place on June 25.

Markey will begin sprint toward the special election as a heavy favorite, owing to the heavy Democratic tilt of the Bay State, and his broad network of influential supporters.

Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, won the Republican nomination easily Tuesday. With 49 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Gomez, who led former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Dan Winslow by wide margins.

Gomez is the son of Colombian immigrants and a first-time candidate. The private equity investor outraised his GOP competitors by a wide margin during the campaign.

"Gabriel Gomez is the kind of results-oriented leader who will bring a never say die attitude and spirit of service to the Senate on behalf of the Bay State," National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas said in a statement.

Democrats immediately sought to paint Gomez as too conservative for Massachusetts. Senate Majority PAC released a memo Tuesday night comparing Gomez to Mitt Romney. Markey's campaign slammed Gomez for his position on abortion, guns and entitlements.

"He opposes an assault weapons ban, supports devastating cuts to Social Security, and while he's running as a 'businessman,' he refuses to discuss the 16 years he spent in private equity [firms]," said Markey spokesman Andrew Zucker.

As expected, turnout was low on Tuesday. Even before the Boston Marathon bombings, the campaign had been overshadowed by other events, including the Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's retirement announcement, which triggered the first open mayoral race in three decades.