Mass. US Senate hopefuls spar over spending pledge
BOSTON (AP) -- Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Gabriel Gomez rejected calls Wednesday by his Democratic opponent, Congressman Edward Markey, to sign a pledge to limit spending by outside groups on television, radio and Internet ads during the special election campaign.
The bickering over the so-called people's pledge came a day after Gomez and Markey secured their parties' nominations in the race to fill U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's former seat.
The Republican also challenged the Democrat to three debates before the June 25 election, the state's third U.S. Senate contest in four years.
Gomez, a Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL, said Markey's call for a spending pledge is disingenuous and pointed out Markey benefited from outside groups that poured more than $1 million into the primary race to help him defeat fellow U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch.
"Congressman Markey has spent decades in Congress building a war chest of outside special interest money to defend his incumbency," Gomez said Wednesday. "It is the height of hypocrisy for him to talk about a pledge."
Gomez said he was taking "one pledge and one pledge only: to protect and defend the Constitution."
Markey, speaking at a Democratic unity breakfast Wednesday, warned that without a pledge Republican-aligned groups will pour millions of dollars in outside money into the race in the hopes of winning back a Senate seat.
A similar people's pledge was signed last year by Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren in their U.S. Senate race. That pledge largely held, although the race, which Warren won, ended up being the costliest in state history. Markey and Lynch also signed a pledge during the Democratic primary.
"To Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren's credit, they reached a historic agreement, which kept out that tsunami of politically polluted money that swept across all of the rest of the United States," Markey said at the Democratic breakfast.
Markey declined to say if he would unilaterally take the pledge if Gomez refused, but he suggested there could be no pledge without both candidates agreeing to it.
Markey, who lives in Malden, said there would be debates during the two-month general election. He said his campaign would be in touch with Gomez campaign officials to work out the details.
Gomez, a political newcomer, started Wednesday by greeting commuters at the Broadway MBTA stop in South Boston.
"We're going to continue what we did from Day 1, and that is just getting our message out there and meeting as many people as we can," he said.
Markey and other top Democrats, including Lynch, used the breakfast to smooth over any lingering friction between the primary rivals. Markey, Lynch, Gov. Deval Patrick and state committee chairman John Walsh met privately for several minutes at a popular Boston bar.
Walsh, speaking later, previewed one potential line of attack on Gomez: "He steadfastly refuses to discuss any details of his 16 years as a businessman."
"In Massachusetts, we have seen this picture before. A guy who says he's a businessman because he looks good in a suit," Walsh added, in a reference to failed Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Markey said Democrats are keenly aware of how Brown was able to quickly win over voters in 2010, when he replaced the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"We are committed to ensuring that the Republicans do not win this seat in Massachusetts in the same way that they did in 2010," he said. "We are going to stand shoulder to shoulder as a united party."
Despite the agreement between Markey and Lynch during the primary, outside groups still poured money into the campaign.
An Associated Press review of campaign finance records found that spending by the groups topped $2.2 million, nearly 84 percent of which went to help Markey.
Markey said the outside groups that worked to elect him publicly disclosed how much they had spent. The AP review showed the League of Conservation Voters spent the most, about $831,000.
Another group, the Committee for a Better Massachusetts, spent about $93,000 on radio ads to help elect Gomez.
Markey's campaign has been quick to criticize Gomez's participation in what it calls "a secretly funded special interest group" during last year's presidential contest. That group, called the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc., produced a 22-minute video criticizing Obama for taking too much credit for the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.