, Salem, MA

June 21, 2013

Nelson Benton: It’s a real long shot for Gomez

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez held his own in the final debate of the not-so-special campaign for the Bay State’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. But it likely won’t be enough for him to spring a Scott Brown-like surprise on Tuesday.

Brown and Peabody’s Leah Cole are exceptions to the rule that holds that Democrats, with more registered voters and a better get-out-the-vote machine, hold a distinctive advantage in elections here. Congressman Ed Markey is hardly the most charismatic candidate in the world, or even in his hometown of Malden, but he has the backing of a party apparatus determined to avoid a repeat of what occurred when Brown upset Attorney General Martha Coakley in the 2010 special election to choose a replacement for the late Edward Kennedy.

Though a thoroughly moderate Republican, Gomez is hindered by his party’s reputation for being anti-choice, anti-immigration and pro-guns. That image was the gist of Markey’s argument against electing Gomez during their one-hour debate televised by WGBH.

The fact is Gomez is less likely to pledge total fealty to the GOP leadership than Markey is to stray from the Democratic Party line in the Senate. But even with a bold effort to portray the Democrat as a classic tax-and-spender, Gomez is likely to end up the loser next week.


By the way, contrary to Markey’s assertion that Gomez wouldn’t have dared suggest to GOP darling Sen. John McCain that he should be term-limited out of office, a spokesman for the Arizona senator confirmed to The Daily Caller Wednesday that “they did discuss the issue of term limits” when McCain was in town to campaign for Gomez, and “they disagree on this particular issue, but agree on many others.”


In addition to his many contributions to the city of Salem during his tenure as mayor, the late Jean Levesque displayed an extraordinary ability to put the needs of his constituents ahead of petty personal grievances. It’s a quality all too rare among politicians today at the national, state and local levels.

Retired police chief Robert St. Pierre, in his eulogy for Levesque last week, recounted how a bitter rivalry with Henry O’Donnell evolved into an effective working relationship and, later, close friendship.

O’Donnell twice challenged Levesque for the mayor’s seat. And after that second election, a majority on the Salem School Committee who’d hoped to see Levesque lose thought they might pull the chief executive’s chain by appointing his opponent to be superintendent of schools.

But to the surprise of many, Levesque, who chaired the school board, moved to make O’Donnell’s election unanimous, then proceeded to work effectively with the new superintendent.

“Some of Jean’s supporters were not happy, but that did not bother him,” St. Pierre recalled. “His concern was to build a team that could work together and keep the city afloat during those tough fiscal times. And Hank O’Donnell turned out to be a good team player and partner with Jean; together they cut over $2 million from the school budget, to the chagrin of many of Hank’s old supporters.”

Their friendship lasted right up until the day of Levesque’s death.


Seemingly it takes a move to Arizona to appreciate the quality of one’s former representatives in the 2nd Essex District, Fred Berry and Joan Lovely.

My current state senator, Republican Judy Burgess, scored at the top of Arizona Republican columnist Laurie Roberts’ kook-o-meter for her repeated condemnation of a pro-environment United Nations resolution passed 22 years ago as a “sinister and dark” plot to “change our way of life, our heritage and our liberties.”


Nelson Benton covered politics on the North Shore for 40 years before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at