As Bay Staters head to the polls to elect their next representative to the United States Senate, it’s impossible not to feel some measure of electoral apathy. Another round of mudslinging just seven months after the grueling 2012 elections, this time without the excitement of a race for the White House. And the candidates themselves? Well…
Victorious in the Democratic primary, 37-year House of Representatives veteran Edward Markey stands in one corner. In the other is Gabriel Gomez, a private investor and former Navy SEAL who won an upset victory in the Republican primary. Business as usual, as far as stereotypes go: For liberals, a career Washingtonian supportive of "big government," for conservatives, a businessman political outsider with military credentials.
But the state’s voters have grown used to more than just the usual crop of candidates. Barack Obama inspired them, then Elizabeth Warren rallied them. Even Scott Brown brought out the best of Massachusetts’ independent spirit. True, those candidates usually had the advantage of presidential election hype, but Brown rallied independents to victory in the 2010 midterms.
The difference, frankly, is that this year’s candidates just don’t measure up. As his opponent has noted time and again, Markey has spent almost four decades in Congress to no real effect. The congressman has proven a reliable toe-the-line vote for the Democratic agenda and little else — less than 1% of his sponsored legislation has become law.
There’s no indication that Markey would change in the Senate, good news for liberals hoping to maintain control of the chamber through the 2014 midterm elections. It’s hard not to wish he offered something beside a roll call, though. After Warren’s populist fire, it feels as if "the people’s seats" deserve more.
Still, Gabriel Gomez is easily the greater disappointment. Despite an impressive service record, his campaign never evolved a theme beyond his Latino heritage, tenure as a Navy SEAL, and vague references to his “private sector experience.” The only private equity deal Gomez has unveiled was apparel company Lululemon, where he was not among the investors asked to join its board.
Then there was the revelation of a letter Gomez sent to Governor Deval Patrick seeking appointment as interim senator following John Kerry’s promotion to Secretary of State. At the time, Gomez promised to rubber-stamp the Democratic agenda on gun control and immigration. Months later, he’s promising Bay State conservatives that he will fight to end "erosion" of the Second Amendment. Right.
One might think such uninspiring candidates would produce a fairly even race, but this is Massachusetts. Democrats and left-leaning moderates wield an electoral majority. Short of a Brown-style Republican to sway independent voters, the race was Markey’s to lose. With Election Day polls giving the congressman a comfortable 10-point lead, he won’t be losing it.
It could have been a better contest. It should have been, given the importance of a state’s representative in the U.S. Senate. But timing is everything, and the commonwealth’s biggest names are aiming for mayor of Boston or, once Patrick steps down in 2014, governor of Massachusetts. Why settle for Senate when other offices beckon?
So it’s down to the best of the worst. Give the reliable Democrat his reward, then, and send Ed Markey to Washington. He can serve the remainder of Kerry’s term until 2014, perhaps proving himself worthy enough for reelection to a full six-year term. We can only hope.