After 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Edward Markey is headed for the U.S. Senate.
Markey built a solid lead of more than 9 percentage points as of press time Tuesday night to win Massachusetts’ special election over political newcomer Gabriel Gomez and earn the seat that had been held by John Kerry prior to Kerry’s being named the nation’s new Secretary of State in January.
The win also means that Markey will step into the seat that has been held by interim Sen. William “Mo” Cowan, who was appointed to that post by Gov. Deval Patrick earlier this year.
With 1,834 of the state’s 2,172 precincts reporting, Markey had built a lead of 54.6 to 45 percent, with 532,335 votes to Gomez’s total of 450,181.
Markey fared better than that in Gloucester Tuesday night, pulling 3,326 votes to Gomez’s 2,394 and carrying the city by a percentage of 57.12 percent to 42.14. Richard Heos, who was on the ballot as a third-party candidate and is affiliated with the Twelve Visions Party, drew 20 Gloucester votes.
In all, 5,650 of the city’s roughly 21,000 voters went to the polls, for a turnout of 26.97 percent, City Clerk Linda Lowe said late Tuesday night.
Markey also captured Rockport, with 1,250 votes to Gomez’s 917, but Gomez took the town of Essex, reeling in 525 votes to Markey’s 417. Vote totals for Manchester — where residents also faced referendum choices regarding debt-exclusion Proposition 2 1/2 overrides to fund local seawall repair and other harbor improvements, were unavailable as of press time.
Tuesday’s voting across Cape Ann and the rest of the state capped a special election run for a Massachusetts Senate seat for the second time in four years, on the heels of Republican Scott Brown’s surprising come-from-behind win over state Attorney General Martha Coakley in January 2012.
But it also capped a race that never captured many voters’ attention, with Secretary of State William Galvin predicting turnouts that were expected to reach 30-year record lows.
Along the way, Markey enlisted his party’s heavy hitters, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton, with Obama traveling to Boston two weeks ago to give Markey a ringing endorsement.
“Here in Massachusetts, you have a long history of sending smart, tough, hardworking leaders to the Senate,” Obama said. “Nobody is better suited to carry on that legacy than Ed Markey.”
Yet Gomez, 47 and a political unknown before entering the race and winning a low-key April 30 Republican primary, sought to position himself as a socially moderate, fiscally conservative alternative to Markey, whom he steadily pegged as a symbol for an entrenched and out-of-touch Washington political establishment.
Gomez, a Catholic, noted that he is “pro-life” personally, but that he had no intention of changing current abortion laws. He also came out in support of stepped-up background checks on firearms sales.
Yet on Cape Ann and elsewhere, Markey seemed to score well with voters on women’s rights and other social issues.
Gloucester voter Ruth Salinger said she liked Markey’s stance regarding environmental issues, and for the women of Massachusetts.
“I think he’s been a good congressman, I’d like to see him become a senator,” she said Tuesday afternoon.
Markey and Gomez also drew mixed reviews in Gloucester’s fishing community, which continues to grapple with government-driven cuts of up to 78 percent in their allowable landings, and are wrestling with a federally-recognized “economic disaster” that, to date, has not drawn a dime of any federal disaster aid.
Markey has long been a favorite of environmental groups that have pushed policies that have spurred the cuts in this year’s allowable catch of Gulf of Maine cod and other species. And the Malden congressman is also on record as opposed to adding reforms and new flexibility to the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act many fishermen say they desperately need, while supporting President Obama’s so-called “ocean zoning” proposal that fishermen fear will bring additional area closures to an industry pressing hard for more openings.
Gloucester fisherman Russell Sherman noted that a recent Markey fund-raiser was hosted by Monica Medina, a former Pew Environment Group officer who led a federal task force on changing to a the fisheries catch share management system that Sherman that has proven disastrous for the industry.
But Gloucester Democratic state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante — an attorney who’s represented fishermen in lawsuits against regulators, and has led a push for fishing regulatory reforms on both the state and national levels — endorsed Markey, saying she believes Markey is fair-minded and will be best equipped to help fishermen during the crisis.
She noted that Gomez lacks Markey’s influence over decision makers and ability to win votes for disaster funding — which Markey has supported in the House, and help push for better science and other changes.
Fishermen shouldn’t judge Markey on what he did, or didn’t do, for the industry during years when he didn’t represent any fishing communities, she said.