Massachusetts voters will see local businessman Gabriel Gomez (R) and Rep. Edward Markey (D) face off in the upcoming Senate special election, after both candidates took their respective parties' nominations in Tuesday's primary.
Gomez toppled former Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms acting Director Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Dan Winslow in what some Massachusetts Republicans were calling an upset, taking 51 percent of the vote to Sullivan's 36 percent and Winslow's 13 percent, with 59 percent of precincts reporting.
The Associated Press has called both races.
Gomez ran as a Washington outsider, touting his business background and his experience as a Navy SEAL in his pitch to voters. He significantly outraised his opponents, bringing in nearly $600,000 to Sullivan's $244,000.
Washington Democrats congratulated Markey, whom they endorsed early on in the race, and hammered Gomez as "way outside the mainstream" of Massachusetts voters in a statement from Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Deputy Executive Director Matt Canter.
“A small group of Republican voters in Massachusetts have decided that Gabriel Gomez, a former spokesman for a Super PAC that attacked President Obama over the killing of Osama bin Laden, best represents their extreme right wing views, putting him way outside the mainstream for the vast majority of Massachusetts voters," Canter said.
Gomez acted as spokesman for a group that accused President Obama of politicizing the killing of Osama bin Laden, an issue that didn't come up in the primary but may feature prominently in Democratic attacks in the general election campaign in a state that Obama won by 23 percentage points.
Canter also hammered Gomez on his Republican policy positions and background in business.
"The fact is that Gomez opposes a woman’s right to choose, sides with the big banks over consumers, and would support a Republican agenda that would cut Medicare and Social Security. Gomez has built his enormous wealth on the backs of hardworking middle class families and he is out of touch with Massachusetts," he said.
The attack on Gomez's wealth is one Democrats used to great effect on Mitt Romney in 2012, and at least one Democratic super-PAC, Senate Majority PAC, was already pushing that narrative on Tuesday night, issuing a memo that charges that "Gabriel Gomez is Mitt Romney Jr."
"From protecting special tax breaks for billionaires at the expense of seniors and students, to surrounding himself with political insiders from Romney 2012, to talking out of both sides of his mouth, Gabriel Gomez is running a “Mini Me” retread of Mitt Romney’s epic failure of a presidential campaign," the memo, from Craig Varoga, a strategist for the PAC, reads.
But Republicans hope that Gomez's effort to establish himself as a pragmatic independent during the primary campaign could make him competitive in a general against a candidate they believe could be weak after having been reelected over three decades with few tough races.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (Kan.) highlighted Gomez's outsider credentials in a statement that touted him as a "next generation leader" who can help "turn around" Washington.
“Congratulations to Gabriel Gomez for his hard fought victory. The Senate is the nerve center of dysfunctional Washington and we need to get it working again. Gabriel Gomez is just the sort of next generation leader we need to help turn it around," he said.
He also seemed to indicate that Republicans hope to make Markey's long tenure in Congress an issue in the general election.
“Too often, politicians running for office try to make elections about the past, but candidates like Gabriel Gomez remind us that they are about the future, and providing responsible leadership and a better life for those who elect us," Moran added.
Gomez may also have the capacity to appeal to the unenrolled voters that make up a majority of Massachusetts voters. In a letter he sent to Gov. Deval Patrick (D), and released during the campaign, asking for an appointment to the Senate, Gomez praised President Obama and pledged to work with him.
The letter was considered problematic for him during the Republican primary, but may prove to be an asset in the general.
Markey congratulated Lynch in a statement applauding his House colleague for running a "tough, energetic campaign."
"If all of us were a little bit more like Steve Lynch, this state and this country would be a better place," he said. "Steve ran a tough, energetic campaign that gave voice to the concerns of working people across Massachusetts, and his entire team deserves a great deal of credit. I look forward working with him as we continue to build a stronger, fairer, and more secure Massachusetts."
Democrats will come together at a unity breakfast on Wednesday morning in Boston.
Markey's campaign was already out swinging against Gomez Tuesday night, issuing a release outlining the ways in which he's a "typical Republican, and the first domino for the national GOP seeking to take control of the Senate and enact an extreme agenda that's bad for Massachusetts."
"A vote for Gabriel Gomez is one more Republican vote against sensible gun laws, Social Security and a woman's right to choose," said Markey spokesman Andrew Zucker in the release.
Democrats made the same effort to tie a vote for Scott Brown to Republican control of the Senate in the 2012 election, and that argument contributed to his eventual loss.
The primary is the culmination of an often lackluster campaign that fought winter storms, a developing Boston mayoral race and the recent Boston Marathon bombings for the attention of Massachusetts voters.
Early numbers indicate the candidates' best efforts at firing up voters fell short, as turnout looks to have declined considerably from 2009 numbers.
Gomez and Markey have until June 25 to reverse that trend, and both Markey's campaign and national Republicans have indicated they plan to ramp up their efforts in the final two months.
And as no Republican candidate has agreed to the pledge barring outside groups from spending money in the race, the general election campaign could see the floodgates open to millions of dollars from super-PACs and other groups hoping to sway the outcome.
Likely to remain a central focus in the general campaign is national security, an issue that rose to prominence following the Boston Marathon bombings two weeks ago.
Republicans Gomez and Sullivan have national security backgrounds, and they touted that experience in the weeks following the bombing. Markey has little legislative experience on national security, and Lynch saw fit to hammer him on the issue in recent days.
Though all five candidates paused their campaigns in the aftermath of the bombings, each jockeyed to take advantage of the political opportunity offered by the crisis in more subtle ways. Gomez gave multiple media interviews on his experience running the marathon and finishing just minutes before the bombing, while Sullivan appeared as an expert witness on a number of television stations.
Markey reaired an ad touting his legislative efforts after 9/11, and Lynch issued a direct-to-camera ad thanking first responders. He also launched a newly combative leg of his campaign following the bombings, attacking Markey on his national security record during back-to-back debates last week.
But Lynch's late offense was unable to make up for a consistent double-digit lag in most polls, as well as Markey's fundraising lead and early endorsements from the likes of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the man he hopes to succeed, Secretary of State John Kerry (D).
Both Victoria and Caroline Kennedy added their voices to the chorus of prominent Democrats supporting Markey, and he also received the monetary and organizational support of Democratic groups like the League of Conservation Voters and NARAL Pro-Choice America, both of which launched get-out-the-vote efforts for Markey.
Lacking the big-name support and fundraising edge, however, Markey likely would've ultimately prevailed in the Democratic primary on the basis of his record alone. He framed himself as a progressive policy-oriented candidate and focused on his vote in favor of ObamaCare, which Lynch opposed, as well as his pro-abortion rights stance and work on environmental issues.
Lynch cited his working-class roots in a populist pitch to voters.
As recently as this weekend, Lynch was predicting his own win, and has touted union workers — traditionally considered strong, active organizers in Massachusetts politics — as the backbone of his campaign.
His strategy relied on turning out unenrolled voters, which make up more than half of Massachusetts's registered voters, to support him. But the GOP primary likely drew some of those voters away from Lynch, and Markey built a substantial ground game to mitigate Lynch's efforts.
It had been harder to take the pulse of the GOP field, with little polling available. Gomez ran as a Washington outsider, and his Hispanic and military background have made him a favorite of establishment Republicans looking for a new profile for the party.
Sullivan ran to the right of Winslow and Gomez, highlighting his anti-abortion and pro-gun views, and has the backing of a Tea-Party-affiliated group.
--This report was originally published at 9:11 p.m. and last updated at 10:05 p.m.