The race between Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez, a 47-year-old investment banker and former Navy SEAL, and Rep. Ed Markey, a 66-year-old Democratic politician with more than 30 years experience, in the Massachusetts Senate special election will be fast and it will be furious.
Already, the two sides are trading barbs – Gomez used a fair chunk of his primary victory speech Tuesday to mock Markey's age and Democrats are insisting Gomez only won because he heavily outspent his GOP rivals. The June 25 special election to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected to draw national attention and money since Gomez declined to sign the "People's Pledge" first adopted by 2012 rivals Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren to prevent outside groups from influencing their election.
"It's unclear whether the Peoples' Pledge would even have held if they both agreed to it because there was so much outside spending even in the primaries, especially on the Democratic side," says Viveca Novak, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that tracks campaign spending. "But this is really going to open the floodgates."
Gomez, the lesser known of the two candidates, is likely gambling that the benefits of flooding the airwaves will outweigh any costs, she says.
"Gomez's rejection of the pledge has something to do with the fact that he is a lesser-known candidate and he thinks that some of these groups are going to help him, either by supporting him or attacking Markey," Novak says. "It's a little hard to tell how that will play out. I would think that a lot of voters would not be happy to hear that possibly because of Gomez's position on this they are going to be seeing so many more ads in their living rooms."
That's an angle Democrats are eager to exploit.
"When those ads start rolling and we start experiencing what the rest of the country has seen, the people of Massachusetts will understand that's because Gabriel Gomez invited that here," says John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
For Walsh, recent history dictates strategy – paint Gomez as out of sync with most Massachusetts voters (he's pro-life, for example) and just a foot soldier in the Republican army. But don't underestimate his ability to campaign.
"Listen, screwing up a special United States Senate election, that's not a theory for me, we already did that," he says, referring to how Brown upset the heavily-favored Democratic candidate in the 2010 special election to replace Ted Kennedy. "But yeah, it keeps me up at night making sure we don't do it again."
But that Scott Brown magic is just what the Gomez campaign is hoping for, by railing against the status quo and capitalizing on anti-Washington sentiment which is pervasive even in deep blue Massachusetts, a state Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mitt Romney lost by 23 points.
"[Voters] want to change Washington, they want to break gridlock, they want answers about addressing spending and the economy; sending Ed Markey across the street to sit in a different chair is not the solution people in Massachusetts are looking for," says Will Ritter, a spokesman for the Gomez campaign. "They really want to run against Karl Rove and the NRA, but it just doesn't work with Gabriel Gomez."
Ritter says Gomez has an "independent" mind, exemplified by the fact that in 2008 he donated $200 to Barack Obama during the presidential primary but voted for Republican John McCain in the general election.
"Basically he's not a rigid partisan and he's willing to look at anyone from any side of the aisle based on their ideas," he says.
Both sides are expected to be well-funded, as reliable liberal vote Markey commands deep ties to the Democratic Party both locally and nationally, and the wealthy Gomez was willing to spend about $600,000 during his primary campaign.
"When it comes to fundraising, he is going to make sure and our campaign is going to make sure that we have the amount of money that it's going to take to get our message of reforming Washington out there and go up against the Democratic machine," Ritter says.
While no polling is available on the match-up yet, Massachusetts voters – about 50 percent of whom call themselves independents – have shown a willingness to vote for moderate Republicans in off-year elections when the overall turnout is lower. The key will be which side is faster at defining their candidate and painting the opponent as just an arm of their respective national party.