Yesterday was primary day in Massachusetts, where both major parties held fairly competitive contests in the race to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's vacancy in the U.S. Senate. As it turns out, the polls were correct: despite low turnout, Rep. Ed Markey won the Democratic nod and Gabriel Gomez won the Republican nomination. The two will meet in a general election in eight weeks.
If campaigns are about drawing contrasts, the Massachusetts race will be fairly easy: the candidates have very little in common. Markey, for example, is a political veteran with an impressive career in Congress; Gomez's only previous experience was running for a local office in his small hometown -- a race in which he came in third out of three candidates.
At least on paper, the eventual outcome of this race seems pretty straightforward. Massachusetts is one of the nation's most reliable "blue" states, and it's unlikely voters would elect a largely unknown and inexperienced Republican to the Senate over a familiar and respected Democrat.
Then again, Democrats thought the same thing three years ago -- the last time the Bay State had a Senate special election -- and if memory serves, they were sadly mistaken.
And it's that 2010 race that will hang over this year's contest, with many understandably wondering whether Gomez can play the role of Scott Brown and pull off the upset. It's hardly a far-fetched scenario.
Indeed, Gomez is not a candidate to be taken lightly -- he's a Navy veteran with a Harvard MBA, and has a compelling personal background as the son of Colombian immigrants. Gomez also has the advantage of deep pockets, having become quite wealthy as a private equity investor. If the Republican establishment perceives him as a possible winner, it stands to reason Gomez will also benefit from plenty of outside support from the usual suspects.
But 2013 is not 2010, and Scott Brown prevailed under a series of unique circumstances that Democrats say they'e learned from.
Not only is Markey prepared to shake hands in the rain outside Fenway Park, but Gomez is arguably well to Brown's right in a progressive state -- Gomez opposes reproductive rights, opposes the assault-weapons ban, and supports Social Security cuts.
The Republican also seems reluctant to talk in detail about the private-equity work that made him so wealthy.
At a minimum, it's a race worth watching. Election Day is June 25.