Former Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez insists his conversion from staunchly defending an absolute Second Amendment right to bear arms to now supporting an assault weapons ban and limiting magazine sizes is a matter of personal conscience separate from any decision to run for office again.
(In a related note, limited permits are now on sale for the Cape Cod Canal tunnel.)
It’s hard to take at face value claims that any decision on hot-button issues made by any politician that is 180 degrees from a previous stance is solely a matter of introspection divorced from public opinion. It’s especially hard when that sea-change in thought is announced in an op-ed posted on the website of the region’s leading media outlet that endorsed his opponent, as Gomez did on BostonGlobe.com. It has the sense, in the words of Eric Fehrnstrom, of being an Etch A Sketch moment.
But whether one believes the motives behind the public revelation of a private decision are pure or political, his discussion of his change of heart appears convincing and sincere. And while it may lose him a few of his staunchest allies from the Republican base, it’s hard to see how his new outlook will hurt him and, in a number of ways, could help him depending upon which office he decides to pursue.
“I remain a private citizen, but feel I owe it to Massachusetts’ voters to admit that I was wrong in one of my earlier positions,” Gomez wrote in a surprising public admission.
Gomez says while he repeatedly heard from and disagreed with voters during the campaign who supported an assault weapons ban, it seems his wife’s opposition to his position was the push he needed to move away from his stance. That admission could help him with women voters who see a person open to advice from his spouse. It’s also not lost on a lot of people that Gomez, a Navy SEAL who said his military experience honed his appreciation and support for the right to bear arms, made his announcement in the immediate aftermath of the carnage at the Navy Yard in Washington.
Gomez says it’s “50-50” that he returns to the campaign trail, though most observers think it’s a matter of when – and where – not if. Gomez admits he’s eyeing a rematch with Sen. Ed Markey, who beat him by 10 points earlier this year in a campaign that relied heavily on focusing on Gomez’s opposition to a ban on assault weapons. With the Newtown massacre last December still fresh in everyone’s mind and in a state with the strictest gun laws that have widespread support among the electorate, it was an issue that resonated.
Gomez says he’d also consider running as lieutenant governor if GOP frontrunner – and at this point sole Republican candidate – Charlie Baker asks him to join him on the ballot. His change of heart on assault weapons won’t help much if he ends up on the state ballot because gun control here is settled law. But Gomez’s previous stance could have been a hindrance, placing an unwanted focus on an issue that Republicans know is a nonstarter in the Bay State.
A bigger effect, though, could be in the Senate. Markey cashed in, literally, on Gomez’s position, reaping tens of thousands of dollars from fundraising appeals and refusing to let any opportunity pass without hammering home to voters the difference in their beliefs. Taking that off the table a good year-plus before the general election mutes that attack.
It also could work to Gomez’s benefit among voters in Massachusetts who want to see some changes in federal gun laws as the body count rises around the country. Having a Republican in office who may buck the leadership when it comes to passing some kind of laws to begin limiting assault weapons could help push his way a few fence-straddling voters who otherwise like his personal narrative of being from Colombian immigrants and his fiscal stances. And it will be real difficult for the NRA-types to question a former SEAL’s resolve when it comes to his bona fides.
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