Winning Republican campaigns in Massachusetts take pains to avoid associating with their national affiliates, reasoning that the GOP brand that sells well in Kansas or Oklahoma is less appealing closer to home.
Winning Democratic campaigns tend to deprive them of that disassociation.
Enter US Representative Edward J. Markey, who Monday convened reporters to discuss the so-called People’s Pledge, an agreement designed to discourage outside campaign spending by requiring candidates to pay 50 percent of the cost of independent third-party ads to a charity of the other candidate’s choice.
Then-US Senator Scott Brown and US Senator Elizabeth Warren both signed the pledge during their Senate race last year. This year, Republican nominee Gabriel E. Gomez has said he will not.
Seizing on Gomez’s refusal, Markey’s campaign has chosen to try to make it the centerpiece issue as the general election gets out of the blocks. Markey said he planned to discuss the pledge “every single day” during the campaign.
To Democrats, Gomez is largely a blank slate beyond the stances he took during the Republican primary. Unlike former US Senator Scott Brown, he has no voting record to peck at, no history of aligning himself on policy with national Republican figures who are not well regarded in the Commonwealth.
Bringing up the pledge is Markey’s way of attaching those names to the race. During the question-and-answer portion of Monday’s press conference, Markey ran down a roster of reliable antagonists who star in Democratic fundraising efforts: the conservative political financiers Koch brothers, GOP strategist Karl Rove, the National Rifle Association, the Citizens United court case that opened the door to undisclosed campaign donations, and the prospect that the coal and oil industries could flood the campaign with outside spending.
Asked for proof that Gomez might benefit from such contributors, Markey said, “I would say that the fact that he will not sign the agreement is the evidence of it. Otherwise, why would he not? These are the principal funders.”
Gomez’s campaign fires back that Markey has collected over $3.4 million in special-interest donations during his time in Congress. “If he wants to give it back, then we could talk,” said Gomez adviser Lenny Alcivar.
“This is an example of a career politician who will say and do anything to avoid talking about what matters: jobs, spending, taxes,” Alcivar said.
For Markey, there are other issues closer to the liberal id that he could use as cudgels against Gomez. Gomez, for instance, is personally opposed to abortion, but has said he accepts federal abortion policy as settled law. On gun control, Gomez has said he opposes an assault weapons ban and universal background checks, but supports closing the so-called gun show loophole.
When a reporter asked why he had centered his general-election campaign thus far around a campaign process message rather than policy, Markey said undisclosed outside spending extends tentacles into every issue.
“It’s not about one issue,” he replied. “It’s about every issue.”
Of course, by lining up behind the good-government pact now, Markey can claim some measure of distance later if, in the case that Gomez continues to resist the pledge, outside groups sympathetic to the Democrat decide they want to lend a hand by spending heavily against Gomez.
“I don’t want anyone to come into this state, for either side. I don’t want anyone to come in. I want to keep them out, everybody,” Markey said on Monday. “I want this to be a battle between me and Gabriel Gomez.”