BOSTON — It’s a small group of potential voters but one that Gabriel Gomez is clearly at ease with — about two dozen people who gathered in a recreation room at the Chelsea Soldiers Home to hear a fellow veteran discuss his uphill fight to become the next U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
Gomez, wearing his trademark olive green bomber jacket, chats with the vets about the type of aircraft he piloted before becoming a Navy SEAL and the need to improve health care for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
He describes his hectic campaign schedule in military terms: “Reveille was 05:00 for me today,” he explains. And his quest to defeat Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey in Tuesday’s special election often sounds more like a military endeavor.
“Where we come from, you’re mission focused,” he tells the group. “You accomplish your mission, and that’s what you’re focused on.”
He continues: “You don’t have 37 years to accomplish a mission.” It’s a dig at Markey’s long tenure in Congress and a reminder of his own pledge to serve no more than two full terms if elected.
While Gomez, 47, has made his military background a cornerstone of the campaign, he’ll need more than the support of veterans to win an election in a state where Republicans — with the notable exception of former Sen. Scott Brown in a 2010 special election to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy — have fared poorly in recent years.
A political unknown before entering the race to succeed John Kerry, who resigned to become secretary of state, Gomez won a low-key Republican primary over two opponents April 30 but now faces a better financed candidate with the state’s formidable Democratic machine on his side.
Gomez, who at times seems to campaign as much against his own party as the Democrats, has sought to position himself as a socially moderate, fiscally conservative alternative to Markey, whom he holds up as a symbol for an entrenched and out-of-touch Washington political establishment.