It’s time for the main event in Massachusetts.
Gabriel Gomez, the political newcomer with a biography one newspaper suggested makes him “the perfect candidate,” survived a three-person Republican primary and now faces a special election in true-blue Massachusetts against a well-known Democratic congressman.
But winning as a Republican in Massachusetts, where Democrats have a registration advantage and national Republicans are unpopular, is not easy. Not easy, but it’s not impossible, especially in a special election, as former GOP Sen. Scott Brown showed after Ted Kennedy’s death left an opening in the Senate.
Though, it’s a long shot, national Republicans aren’t ceding the race. They argue that, even if Gomez can’t beat Rep. Ed Markey at least they’re showing that they can recruit a young, Hispanic, moderate candidate. The stakes are high for Democrats, too, who want to keep the seat in order to preserve their 55-seat majority in the Senate, especially going into the 2014 cycle, where the map is favorable to Republicans.
Gomez, 47, beat former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Daniel Winslow in the special Republican primary election in the Bay State on the strength of his biography, which includes a stint as a Navy SEAL and most recently as a private equity entrepreneur. The general election is June 25.
Here’s a look at the biography of the man who is hoping to join Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Susan Collins as the only Republicans in New England.
He’s the son of Colombian immigrants.
As the successful son of immigrants from Latin America, Gomez's candidacy comes tailor-made for a Republican Party focused on broadening its appeal and winning support among Hispanics. "I couldn't be more proud of my heritage and the fact that my parents decided to stay here after I was born," Gomez, a first-generation American, said in an interview with the Associated Press. Born in Los Angeles to parents from Colombia, Gomez grew up in Washington state in a middle-class household. His father, who was educated at the University of Pittsburgh and Stanford, eventually went on to become an executive at the world's largest hops dealer, according to a Boston Globe profile. He learned to speak English only in kindergarten and even kicked off his candidacy in an online video in Spanish before switching to English. On immigration reform, though, Gomez has had to backtrack. When John Kerry's departure opened up the Senate seat, Gomez wrote Gov. Deval Patrick seeking the appointment. In the letter, he said he supported Obama's positions on guns and immigration. But since then, he's called for tighter border security, but also backs a pathway to legal status for people who entered the country illegally.
He’s a decorated Navy SEAL.
On the campaign trail, Gomez wears a gold Navy SEAL lapel pin where many candidates and officials wear an American flag. It’s a tangible reminder of his military service, which began in college when Gomez attended the Naval Academy. Before going on to SEAL training, he served as a pilot on board aircraft carriers. During SEAL training he became class leader, according to the Globe, and went on to meet his future wife, Sarah, who was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He left the Navy in 1996 to go to Harvard Business School. His service as a SEAL has not been without political controversy, though. Gomez served as a spokesman for the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, which ran a 22-minute video bashing President Obama for politicizing the killing of Osama bin Laden. Gomez told the Globe he doesn’t have any regrets about speaking for the group. “Like anything else, I can’t control who all those guys are,” he said. “I’m not part of that group. I was just asked to go on a radio and TV show and talk about two points.” Now, the group is sending fundraising letters, seeking donations of up to $5,000 for Gomez’s campaign.
He’s a millionaire who has partially self-funded his campaign.
Gomez built a business career in private equity investments that made him millions over the years and helped fuel his political career, thus far. After graduating with an MBA from Harvard Business School, Gomez took a job at the Charlotte, N.C.-based investment banking firm Bowles Hollowell Conner, an unusual move for a firm that typically hired people with Wall Street experience, a former colleague told the Globe. Gomez, instead, came from the military. He then went to the Boston firm of Summit Partners in 2001. He stayed there for three years before moving onto the Boston-based investment firm Advent International. By any standard, he's had success as a businessman. From January 2012 through March 2013, Gomez reported earning nearly $1 million. He's turned his private-sector success into financial fuel for his Senate campaign, loaning himself $600,000, more than the $582,000 he reported raising, according to the FEC. He reported earning more than $8.5 million from 2007 through 2011 and paying nearly $1.9 million in taxes, according to the AP. Turning his financial advantage to a political one, Gomez was the first Republican to air television ads.
He ran this year’s Boston Marathon.
Gomez ran in the Boston Marathon, finishing a few minutes before the bombs went off, with a time of 4:08:03. He gave a firsthand report of what he saw and had to search for his wife Sarah and his children who were at the finish line. (He and his family were uninjured.) The bombings rocked not only the city, but also the Senate contest, with the Democratic and Republican candidates suspending their campaigns. That, coupled with widespread national and local coverage of the attacks has meant sparse news coverage of the race. That explains, in part, why Massachusetts officials expected voter turnout of only 20% for the off-year contest. "Whatever momentum this primary had and it didn't have a lot was totally exhausted by the bombing," Secretary of State Bill Galvin said. For his part, Gomez pulled TV ads immediately after the attacks and called on the Obama administration to try bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev outside the criminal justice system, arguing he should be treated as an "enemy combatant," the AP reported.
He’s got connections to Team Romney.
Life is not easy for Republicans in deeply-Democratic Massachusetts, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to1. With a shallow bench of Republicans who’ve won statewide office, Gomez has turned to former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s staff for help, even though Gomez supported Obama in 2008. Gomez hired Bradley Crate, Gail Gitcho and Lenny Alcivar, all veterans of Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign. Crate worked for former GOP Sen. Scott Brown as well and serves as Gomez’s treasurer. Gitcho served as Romney’s communications director and Alcivar ran his online rapid response. But that’s not the only help Gomez is getting from Romney-world. Former Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom is helping Gomez, but from the outside. He helped create a radio ad for the Committee for a Better Massachusetts that looks ahead to the general election and attacks Democratic Rep. Ed Markey while asking voters to vote for Gomez.