BOSTON — Critiqued by his Republican opponent as a symbol of the dysfunctional Washington D.C. establishment, Congressman Ed Markey enjoyed the backing of the nation’s top Democrat yesterday as President Barack Obama rallied for his election to the U.S. Senate.
Obama steered clear of direct attacks on Markey's opponent Gabriel Gomez, critiquing Republicans generally and bolstering Markey before jetting to Miami aboard Air Force One.
“Ed’s one of you,” Obama said. “Think about Ed’s history. Grew up just three miles from here, in Malden; son of a milk truck driver.”
Markey would work with the president to challenge climate change, Obama said, after noting that the Republican-controlled House has voted nearly 40 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act — repeal efforts that have stalled out in the Senate.
“That’s not a productive thing to do, people,” Obama said. He said efforts would be better spent telling people without insurance that they will soon be eligible under the federal health insurance program.
Gomez, a former Navy SEAL who has previously supported Obama, wrote the president an open letter, inviting him to a veterans town hall event in Chelsea yesterday afternoon, and pledged to be a voice of bipartisanship in Washington.
“[S]hould I be fortunate enough to be elected as the next Senator from Massachusetts, I look forward to working with you to represent all the people of Massachusetts,” Gomez wrote. “Where we disagree, I will reach across the aisle and work to find common ground with you, and with my fellow members of Congress.”
Casting himself as a fresh alternative, Gomez has said Markey’s tenure in Congress dating back to 1976 is an argument for term limits, and pinned blame for the deficit’s subsequent growth on Markey.
Markey, who has harkened to the early 20th century presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a key point that benefitted his working-class family, has dismissed Gomez as nothing new.
“He backs the oldest, stalest, Republican ideas from the past,” Markey said, knocking Gomez’s opposition to an assault weapons ban, to cheers.
The first person in his family to go to college, Markey said the National Institutes of Health budget should not be cut, but rather it should be doubled.
The Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center was crowded for the presidential visit as people hoping to get in formed a line outside. Some picketers, many protesting the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, held signs outside.
Noting that his last visit to Boston had been in the days just after the Boston Marathon bombing, Obama said he had stopped with Markey at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, in Boston’s South End, for a burger and fries. He said he met a victim of the bombing there as well as a nurse who responded to the emergency.
“I gave her a big hug,” Obama said. He said, “She was an example of the spirit of Boston during a very difficult time.”
According to a pool report citing a White House official, Obama met with family members of the late Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who officials believe was killed by the marathon bombing suspects.
A political ally of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who signed into law the health care legislation that Kennedy had fought for in his waning years, Obama praised the recent Democrats who represented the Bay State in the upper chamber.
“Here in Massachusetts you have a long history of sending smart, tough, hard-working leaders to the Senate, who roll up their sleeves and fight,” Obama said, name-checking Kennedy, Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to applause.
The Congressional delegation, including interim Sen. William “Mo” Cowan, who will relinquish the seat to the victor of the June 25 special election, and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, who lost to Markey in the April primary, were not present at the rally. An aide to Markey said the delegation had votes in both chambers, and a Cowan aide said he was in D.C. for votes.
A child of immigrants, Gomez has highlighted his Colombian ancestry on the campaign trail, occasionally breaking into Spanish, as he did at the Springfield debate, when he said, in Spanish, “It’s been a pleasure to speak with you for the past hour with my friend Congressman Ed Markey. What you see is two different types of people. One person who is going to tell you the truth, from the heart, and another person who is going to try to scare you – because he is scared.”
The Latino demographic is one that Democrats have sought to bring into the Democratic fold.
Gomez has sought to bring Latino voters to the polls for him, as well, launching a Latinos for Gomez coalition this week.
The approaching election falls in the midst of the NBA finals and the Stanley Cup finals, where the Boston Bruins are facing Obama’s hometown team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I am not going to talk trash about the hockey game. I’m not going to say anything about the outstanding qualities of the Chicago Blackhawks,” Obama said to a scattering of boos. “I’m not going to say it. I’m not going to do it because I don’t want to make y’all feel bad.”