Massachusetts GOP Senate primary a neck-and-neck race

Updated
By Nathan L. Gonzales
Massachusetts Republican Gabriel Gomez on Andrea Mitchell Reports
Massachusetts Republican Gabriel Gomez on Andrea Mitchell Reports

Former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez knew his race for the United States Senate would be challenging, but there is no way he could have imagined it would turn out quite this way.

Gomez, the son of Colombian immigrants, faces two other Republican candidates in Tuesday’s primary in Massachusetts, where a special election is being held to fill the seat previously held by now-Secretary of State John Kerry.

Gomez started the race little known and well behind former U.S. attorney and former state legislator Mike Sullivan and state Rep. Dan Winslow but started gaining ground by outspending his opponents and airing more television ads.

Then the Boston bombings happened and all of the candidates temporarily suspended campaign activities at a critical moment in the race, just two weeks before Election Day.

Gomez ran and finished the Boston Marathon, and met with his family at the finish line, just minutes before the explosions. He also attended the subsequent interfaith prayer service with the other candidates.

Finally back on the campaign trail, Gomez asserted his financial advantage once again and was the only Republican candidate with a significant television ad buy (including ads in the expensive Boston media market) in the final days of the race.

In total, Gomez spent more than $300,000 on ads, while Sullivan and Winslow hardly spent anything, according to sources who tracked the spending.

But the biggest factor is turnout. Special elections often have low turnout, and nobody is sure how something such as unique as the bombings will affect turnout. In addition,  the Democratic primary, in which the candidates have spent at least $3 million on ads, is overshadowing the Republican race.

On Monday, Suffolk University released a survey of key “bellwether” areas and Gomez and Sullivan were running neck-and-neck while Winslow was running a distant third. A statewide poll, conducted April 11-18 by Western New England University, showed Gomez with a 33 percent to 27 percent advantage over Sullivan and Winslow at 9 percent.

As a Latino candidate who has supported President Barack Obama in the past, Gomez could make Democratic strategists sweat if he wins the primary. But the Republican would start the general election as an underdog. Rep. Ed Markey is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination over Rep. Stephen Lynch and the June 25 special general election.

A version of this story first appeared on NBCLatino.com.

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Massachusetts GOP Senate primary a neck-and-neck race

Updated