BOSTON – Ed Markey defeated Republican Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election yesterday, as state Democrats overcame low voter turnout to avert a repeat of an embarrassing loss in a similar race three years ago.
“This election is about your hopes, your dreams, your families, and your future,” Markey told supporters at a victory party in Boston. “I know that and I’m going to remember that.”
Markey led Gomez, 55 percent to 45 percent, with all precincts reporting in an Associated Press tally. First elected to the U.S. House in 1976, Markey will take over the Senate seat Democrat John Kerry gave up early this year to become U.S. secretary of state.
In a special election in January 2010 to fill the Senate seat long occupied by Democrat Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts voters roiled the national political scene by electing Republican Scott Brown. That vote underscored national frustration with government and presaged gains by Republicans in the 2010 midterm election, when they won control of the House of Representatives and picked up Senate seats.
Political analysts said Markey’s victory won’t be viewed as a harbinger for the 2014 midterm election.
“All this does is confirm that Democrats get elected to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts unless there are extenuating circumstances,” said Nathan Gonzales, a deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, based in Washington.
In next year’s election, Republicans who are counting on gaining Senate seats -- and perhaps achieving a majority -- will be competing on “much less Democratic ground” than in the Bay State, Gonzales said.
Kerry’s seat has been held on an interim basis by Democrat William “Mo” Cowan, a former aide to Governor Deval Patrick. Democrats hold a 54-46 edge in the chamber.
A New Jersey Republican, Jeff Chiesa, is temporarily filling one of his state’s Senate seats following the June 3 death of Democrat Frank Lautenberg. Democrats are favored to regain the seat in an Oct. 16 special election, which would restore their Senate margin to 55-45.
Markey, 66, and his team stressed from the start of the abbreviated Massachusetts campaign that Democrats shouldn’t take for granted their advantages in a state where the party has dominated most elections for decades. Even as public polls showed Markey favored, usually by 10 percent or more, Democratic activists sought to drum up support for him from all corners.
Leading national party figures -- including President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton -- visited the state for Markey to drive home that message. Some of the congressman’s House colleagues, including members from Florida, Ohio and Hawaii, also worked the campaign trail for him.
“Increasingly, the Brown election looks like a blip on the radar screen,” said Peter Ubertaccio, who teaches politics at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. “It is going to take a very particular set of circumstances for Massachusetts to send a Republican to Washington.”
Brown lost his bid for a full six-year Senate term in November to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, at the same time as Obama carried the state by 23 percentage points over former Bay State Governor Mitt Romney. All of the state’s nine House seats remain in Democratic hands; the last Massachusetts Republicans to serve in the chamber both lost re-election races in 1996.