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June 5, 2013

Candidates prepare for 1st Mass. Senate debate

LAWRENCE (AP) — Democrat Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez promised to highlight differences in both substance and style in the first of three debates between the U.S. Senate candidates over the final weeks of a special election campaign that has yet to fully engage the Massachusetts electorate.

Markey, a 36-year veteran of the U.S. House, and Gomez, a financial executive and former Navy SEAL, were scheduled to square off tonight in a televised debate on WBZ-TV.

The candidates said they were looking forward to the debates that were shaping up as pivotal for both men but especially Gomez, who has touted his political newcomer status but remains an unknown quantity to many Massachusetts voters.

"I'm a plain-spoken, direct kind of guy," Gomez said Tuesday after touring Polartec, a Lawrence textile company.

"I'm going to speak from the heart and I'm going to convey the following message: This election is about the future, not the past. It's about having new ideas and fresh ideas as opposed to old and stale ideas," he said.

Despite his long tenure in Congress, Markey was little known before the Senate campaign outside his House district in Boston's northern and western suburbs, and has tried to deflect criticism that he's an out-of-touch Washington insider.

"I think it's important for us to talk about the big issues and to ensure that the voters out there know what the differences are between me and Gabriel Gomez," Markey said of the upcoming debate.

Markey invoked Democratic royalty during a campaign appearance Monday with Caroline Kennedy, saying Gomez does not represent "mainstream Massachusetts values," as the Kennedy family did.

Gomez, meanwhile, has lately tried to distance himself from the national Republican party, saying he planned on being a "pain in the butt" to GOP Senate leaders.

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