Republican Scott Brown was down in the polls one week ahead of the Jan. 19, 2010, special election to replace deceased Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. He stomped Democrat Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, by nearly 5 percent in a surprising come-from-behind victory in the heavily Democratic state.
Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate vying to replace Democrat John Kerry in the Senate, participated in the first of three debates with Democratic Rep. Edward Markey Wednesday. The political newcomer has 19 days ahead of the June 25 special election to turn a 12 percentage point deficit – according to a New England College poll released Tuesday - into an electoral win. Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, found a mere 4-point gap in a May survey.
The Gomez campaign, however, is careful not to suggest that they're trying to mimic Brown's success.
"We're trying to emulate the results, but every campaign is different, every cycle is different and every candidate is different," Gomez campaign spokesman Will Ritter told U.S. News. "He's got his own stances on the issues."
Brown trailed his Democratic opponent by 15 percentage points among likely voters in a poll released by the Boston Globe nine days ahead of the 2010 election.
"The lesson of the Brown campaign is that people are looking for an independent voice in this state, someone who is going to reform Washington, not more of the same," said Ritter. "In last night's debate you saw a Navy SEAL and a businessman go up against a career politician."
It was Gomez's fourth debate performance ever, Ritter said. The Republican candidate is campaigning in Boston on Thursday with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Among the debate "wins" touted by Gomez's campaign are a dispute over investigating the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans - two of them former SEALs - on Sept. 11, 2012. "Ed Markey doubled down on his opinion that it is a charade to disrupt Hillary Clinton's 2016 ambitions, [but] Gomez reminded him that Americans died and that we need answers," Ritter said.
Neither candidate was widely seen as scoring a significant blow in the first debate.
Like Brown, 47-year-old Gomez is relatively young, good-looking and aspires to depict himself as a bipartisan-minded moderate. During the Wednesday debate he called on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign - a popular GOP position with broader appeal in light of recent disclosures about the seizure of reporter phone records - and said he would not support new restrictions on abortion access. Gomez, the son of Colombian immigrants, also said he supported softening the country's immigration policies.
In one notable scuffle during the campaign, Gomez referred to Markey in May as "pond scum" for an ad putting his picture alongside an image of dead al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The Republican refused to apologize. "I'm not going to engage in name-calling," Markey responded, WBUR reported. "He clearly doesn't want to talk about his support for the NRA's position on assault weapons. He clearly doesn't want to talk about his support for rolling back protections against a repeat of the Wall Street meltdown of our economy."
During his campaign Brown drove around the state in a pick-up truck and famously told a debate moderator, "it's not the Kennedy's seat, it's not the Democrats' seat, it's the people's seat."
Markey has served in the House of Representatives since 1976, and on occasion breaks with party leadership. Gomez was a Navy SEAL until 1994, when he enrolled in Harvard Business School, and now works at an investment firm.