Gomez, Markey Clash on Guns, Taxes in Springfield Debate

In their second debate last night, U.S. Senate Candidates Gabriel Gomez and Edward Markey faced off in Springfield in their bids to fill the Massachusetts seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. As New England Public Radio’s Henry Epp reports, the two men were slightly less combative than in last week’s debate in Boston.

Republican Gabriel Gomez, a Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL and Markey, a Democratic Congressman, clashed on gun control, the economy and taxes, and the creation of the Keystone XL natural gas pipeline. But while the debate was generally more civil than last weeks, both candate’s stuck to familiar lines of attack. Gomez frequently criticized Markey’s 37 year tenure in congress and attempted to paint him as Washington insider responsible for the federal government’s current fiscal troubles.

“The year was 1976, the national debt was $680 billion,” said Gomez. “I was an eleven year old kid playing little league baseball, and Tom Brady wasn’t even born yet. I didn’t even know what the word trillion was at the time. It is now $17 trillion congressman, and during that time, not only have you raised the national debt, but you’ve voted six times to increase your own pay to help raise that national debt.”

But Markey launched attacks of his own, attempting to tie Gomez to policies of the national Republican party and groups like the NRA. 

“He supports the NRA position opposing a ban on assault weapons. I support a ban on assault weapons,” said Markey. “Mr. Gomez supports the NRA position opposing a ban on high capacity magazines that attach to those weapons that turn them in to weapons of war that belong on the battlefields of the planet, but they do not belong on the streets.”

The two also sparred when asked how they would remedy unemployment in western Massachusetts, which has a higher jobless rate than other parts of the state. Both candidates attached the issue to broader, national tax issues.  Gomez says he would repeal the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act, reform the corporate tax code, and initiate more foreign trade agreements.

“We need more trade agreements so we can actually have manufacturing come back to Western Mass., and to Springfield, so that we can start having more markets open, so we can start shipping our products and services out there,” said Gomez. “We were a manufacturing hub before, we need to return back to a manufacturing hub, but more importantly we need to have a lower corporate tax rate, so we can have more companies hiring and investing in their people in the future.”

Meamwhile Markey says western Massachusetts’ economic struggles could be helped by tougher Wall Street regulations and closing corporate tax loopholes.

“It begins with ensuring we have an overall economic plan that Wall Street’s not allowed to once again engage in the risky behavior that led to millions of jobs being lost, that led to jobs being lost all across western Massachusetts,” said Markey. “We have to make sure there is tax fairness so the wealthy are paying their fair share of the dues, the oil companies are not escaping the taxes which they should be paying.”

Markey also advocated for greater investment in education, transportation, and research in the western part of the state. Between their barbs, the two candidates spent portions of the debate agreeing with each other. They agreed on raising the federal minimum wage to ten dollars an hour and on passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to close the income gap between women and men. They also agreed on the need for filibuster reform and both men complimented Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on his stand up filibuster in March on U.S. Drone Policy.

“He stood on his feet, and that was his filibuster. That’s the way it used to be, that’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, that’s Jimmy Stewart. You’re up on your feet, you’re having the debate,” said Markey.

Gomez said he could out-do Senator Paul.

“I could’ve gone longer than Rand Paul. I think he went twelve hours, and I’ve gone lots longer than that without having to go to the bathroom in my time in the SEAL teams, but I still applaud Rand Paul for how long he went,” said Gomez.

As the debate came to a close, Gomez answered a question on federal marijuana law in Spanish and called his upbringing and life accomplishments an example of the American Dream. Markey also spoke of humble beginnings and being the first college graduate in his family. Gomez and Markey now head back to the campaign trail, ahead of the special election on June 25th. Their next and final debate is June 18th in Boston.