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Voices: Back Story

Gomez's TV time gap

State GOP helping out

BY: Paul McMorrow


Gabriel Gomez’s upstart Senate campaign is getting a boost, as the Massachusetts Republican Party is picking up the tab for Gomez’s television advertising. The state GOP’s efforts lift a major cost off the Gomez campaign, as the political newcomer races to eclipse his entrenched, well-funded opponent, Rep. Ed Markey.

But even with the assist from the state party, Gomez is being badly outspent by Markey on the air. Disclosures filed with the Federal Communications Commission show that, to date, the Massachusetts Republican Party’s federal campaign account has purchased $329,000 in broadcast television advertising for Gomez. That compares to nearly $860,000 in broadcast ads the Markey committee has aired since winning the Democratic primary. (Gomez has even been outspent in May by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the political action committee headed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that is airing ads in Boston attacking New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte on gun control.)

Television ad spending looms large in the special Senate election. Less than two months lie between the April primary and the June 25 special election. The compressed electoral calendar makes it difficult for both candidates to make their pitches directly to voters; this burden falls especially heavily on Gomez, a businessman, former Navy SEAL, and political neophyte whose only other campaign experience consisted of an unsuccessful run for Cohasset selectman. Campaigns fought over the airwaves are much more expensive than those fought at the grassroots level.

The last firm to poll the race, Public Policy Polling, found a quarter of likely voters undecided about Gomez; those figures are down only slightly from an early May MassINC Polling Group poll for WBUR, which had one-third of the electorate undecided about him. Polls have generally had Gomez trailing Markey by single digits, but they’ve also shown that Gomez will have to work harder than Markey to introduce himself to voters.

Federal Election Commission campaign finance data is difficult to track in real time. Until the final two weeks of the campaign, fundraising and spending disclosures lag far behind the campaign calendar. But the last numbers available from the FEC show Markey enjoying a significant cash advantage over Gomez, with the Malden Democrat sitting on a $4.6 million cash stockpile, compared to roughly $500,000 for Gomez. Those figures don’t include any fundraising since primary day.

The Gomez campaign says its fundraising activity has picked up since Gomez won the GOP nomination. The campaign brought in Sen. John McCain for a high-profile Boston fundraiser this week. Nevertheless, the Republican faces a yawning fundraising gap while running as the lesser-known of the two Senate candidates. That’s a difficult task, and one the state Republican Party’s television ad buys seek to ease. The state GOP’s reach is also limited, though: FEC data show just $415,000 in the party’s federal account at the end of March, the last date for which figures were available.

Many political observers have tried to draw comparisons between the Gomez-Markey matchup and the January 2010 special election that saw Scott Brown surge past Martha Coakley. Brown both raised, and spent, astounding amounts of money in the final weeks of his upstart campaign. He banked $7.8 million in small donations, on top of $4.3 million in traceable contributions from outside Massachusetts. He spent $8.6 million in the campaign’s final frenetic weeks, including $5 million on broadcast advertising.

To close the campaign finance gap against Markey, the Gomez campaign has set up a pair of joint fundraising committees, one with the state Republican Party, and one with the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The joint committees allow the Gomez campaign to raise money in far larger chunks than individual campaign finance contribution limits would normally permit. Gomez’s federal campaign can only accept donations in $2,600 increments, but the joint committees allow donors to steer up to an additional $10,000 to support Gomez through the state party, and $32,400 through NRSC.

Although any Republican candidate to emerge from last month’s primary would have been at a significant financial disadvantage against Markey, it took Gomez, the state GOP, and the NRSC more than a week to set up the joint fundraising committees allowing them to begin raising money in earnest. By contrast, Markey launched his joint fundraising committee with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on April 17 – two weeks before winning his Democratic primary.

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