Veteran Democratic Rep. Ed Markey defeated Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts special election Senate race Tuesday.
Markey won by about 10 percentage points, garnering about 55 percent support to Gomez's 45 percent in the very low turnout election. Just 27 percent of eligible voters – or about 1.2 million people – showed up at the polls, compared to 54 percent who turned out in the last special election in 2010 when Republican Scott Brown shocked the country by defeating a Democrat in the liberal state.
Democrats had been wary of Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL who is of Hispanic descent, and left nothing to chance by vastly outspending him and trotting out political heavyweights including Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and even President Barack Obama in order to secure victory for Markey.
Republican and Democratic analysts alike had said Bay State voters seemed disconnected from the race, which came at the end of the school year and the beginning of summer time. Democrats, who have a far stronger local party infrastructure in Massachusetts, mobilized all their resources to identify and turn out key voters as they knew the likely low turnout could make the election more volatile.
Markey was almost a generic Democrat, who pitched himself to unions and other base voters, while hitting Gomez on his opposition to an assault weapons ban and pro-life personal beliefs. Meanwhile, Gomez's message of being a "new kind of Republican" was muddled by his inability to separate himself from national Republicans, despite the fact that he is pro-gay marriage and immigration reform.
Markey's 37 years in the House make him the longest-serving congressman to be elected to the Senate. He replaces Democrat Mo Cowan who was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick after former Sen. John Kerry was tapped by Obama to serve as secretary of state. Democrats continue to control the Senate with 54 votes to 46 for Republicans.
Markey told an excited election night crowd that he would not just occupy the seat and vowed to fight for immigration reform, the top issue currently facing senators.
"I go there to stand for you, to speak for you, to seek change that lifts up your families and your future," he said, according to the Boston Globe.
Gomez told his supporters that he was sorry for "coming up short on this mission."
"You are the ones who deserve better," he said, according to the Globe. "You stood by me, you ran with me and you motivated me every step of the way."
Markey will have to run for re-election in the 2014 election. There's a chance that Brown, who was defeated in 2012 by Elizabeth Warren by 8 percentage points when he ran for a full term, could jump back into the fray. But for now, he's working in the private sector and as a political commentator for Fox News.