BOSTON (AP) — Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate in a special election for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, confronted his own party on Monday, saying the GOP has failed to deliver change and gets “stuck in the past.”
In a bid to win over independent voters in a state that votes heavily Democratic, Gomez said Republicans need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
“One of the things I am going to change in Washington is my own party,” Gomez said in prepared remarks for a campaign stop in Quincy. “I am fully aware that in a few months from now, some in the Republican Party will consider me to be a pain in the butt. And I am OK with that.”
The Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL cited several positions that he said put him at odds with national party leaders, including his support for gay marriage, immigration reform and environmental protections.
“Right now, the GOP is a party that has promised more change than it has delivered and is sometimes stuck in the past,” he said.
Gomez, a political newcomer, faces veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey in the June 25 election to fill the Senate seat formerly held by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Democrats quickly dismissed Gomez’s attempt to put distance between himself and the national party, and launched online ads Monday that pointed to a fundraising appeal sent on Gomez’s behalf last week by Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader.
“Gabriel Gomez is a central part of (McConnell’s) plan to take over the United States Senate for the Republican Party,” Markey said following a campaign stop in Brookline. “Coupled with control of the (House) that would pretty much signal an end to the Obama agenda in our country.”
Democrats also cited a number of issues in which they said Gomez sided with the national GOP, including opposition to abortion and a ban on assault weapons.
Gomez describes himself as “pro-life” on abortion but has said he would not seek to change current law. Democrats have faulted him for not taking a position on some abortion-related issues.
The Republican has said he supports wider background checks for gun sales, but does not back an assault weapons ban on constitutional grounds.
The state Republican Party placed a new $396,000 television ad buy for Gomez on Monday. State Democrats said they planned to unveil a new Markey campaign television ad at a news conference on Tuesday, ahead of a debate on Wednesday night.
On Monday, Markey campaigned at a senior citizens center with Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and niece of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Markey told the seniors he would oppose any attempts to cut Social Security or privatize Medicare, warning that Gomez supported a change in the formula for determining annual Social Security benefits that Markey said would cost retirees $146 billion over the next 10 years.
The proposed change known as “chained CPI” has also been backed by Obama, with Markey later acknowledging that he disagreed with the president on the issue.
Kennedy invoked her uncle, who died in 2009, saying that he and Markey had worked together closely on legislation during the more than three decades they served together in Congress.
“He will follow the tradition that Teddy set,” Kennedy said of Markey.
Only about 12 percent of registered Massachusetts voters are Republicans and, with the exception of Scott Brown’s victory in the 2010 special election to succeed Edward Kennedy, the party has fared poorly in recent state elections. Brown lost his re-election bid last year to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.