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KUHNER: Another Massachusetts miracle?

Senate runoff tests the GOP’s moderate message

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Republicans are hoping to recapture a U.S. Senate seat in the Bay State. If they do, it would send political shock waves across the national landscape. Massachusetts is deep blue; Democrats dominate the state. With the exception of Scott P. Brown's upset victory for a Senate seat in 2010, Republicans have been unable to breach the Democrats' congressional fortress. Hopefully, the GOP's luck will change Tuesday.

On June 25, a special election is being held to fill the Senate vacancy left by John F. Kerry since becoming secretary of state. Bay Staters have shown little enthusiasm for either of the two challengers, Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey or Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez. Yet, the election will have profound consequences — especially if Mr. Markey wins.

Polls show the Malden Democrat has a comfortable but not insurmountable lead. The reason is obvious: He is a leftist in an overwhelmingly liberal state. Mr. Markey has been in Congress for nearly 40 years. He is the consummate, out-of-touch Washington insider. He rarely visits his congressional district and spends almost all of his time inside the Beltway.

Moreover, Mr. Markey is a political hack, a machine Democrat who blindly supports President Obama's agenda. He is a staunch supporter of gay marriage and abortion. He even opposes any ban on late-term abortions. In other words, he sanctions infanticide — the mass murder of unborn children. He calls his vote for "Obamacare" the "proudest" of his career, even though it disproportionately hurts the people of Massachusetts. The Bay State already had universal health care as a result of "Romneycare." Obamacare will lead to higher premiums and medical costs for most Massachusetts residents. Mr. Markey's vote sacrificed his state's interests in order to impose government-run health care on the entire country. This is why even some Bay State Democrats — such as U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch — voted against it. Mr. Markey is the ideal liberal: He places loyalty to Mr. Obama above that to his state.

Mr. Markey has voted to raise taxes nearly 300 times. In fact, he has never met a tax increase he didn't support. Rather than being an ally of the working- and middle-class, he is their mortal enemy. For nearly four decades, Mr. Markey has bled taxpayers white. He has done this to fund public boondoggles and giveaways to liberal special interests. For example, it was recently revealed that he helped funnel nearly $35 million into a government project to bring high-tech jobs to Massachusetts. The proposed Telecom City, which is now called River's Edge, was supposed to generate more than 7,000 jobs. The actual number of Internet jobs created: zero. The site contains several office buildings and a hotel — nothing more. Millions of taxpayer dollars were squandered in waste, corruption and cronyism.

Yet Mr. Markey is more than simply a rabid tax-and-spend liberal. He is something worse: a man who long ago abandoned his native state. A major issue dogging Mr. Markey's campaign — and the reason Mr. Gomez remains within striking distance in the polls — is that the boy from Malden no longer lives in Massachusetts. Rather, for nearly two decades his primary residence has been a $1.3 million mansion in Chevy Chase. The running joke in the Bay State is whether Mr. Markey could even find his way back to Malden with a GPS tracker. The tribune of the "99 percent" not only lives among the wealthy "1 percent," he resides in a completely different state. In essence, a Maryland Democrat is seeking a Senate seat for Massachusetts.

This is why Mr. Markey's election would be a tragedy not just for the Bay State, but representative democracy itself. A key tenet of our political system is that elected leaders should genuinely represent their constituents — meaning they live, work and reside among them. Hence, this is how leaders can effectively champion their voters' interests, values and needs. A Markey victory would represent a severe blow to that sacred democratic principle.

All of this has given Mr. Gomez an opportunity to pull off another Massachusetts miracle. Voters — even many Democratic voters — don't like Mr. Markey. The reasons are his Maryland residence and long stint in Congress. It's time for new blood. On paper, the Republican challenger should be the perfect candidate. He is what the liberal media keep insisting should be the new GOP: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and pro-amnesty on illegal immigration. In fact, Mr. Gomez is Hispanic, whose parents emigrated from Colombia. He even addresses Hispanic audiences in Spanish. Some Republicans think the path back to power rests on being socially liberal and catering to minorities. Hence, Mr. Gomez should be their man.

Polls, however, are showing otherwise. The Cohasset businessman continues to trail Mr. Markey. The special election is highlighting a fundamental political truth: When confronted by a choice between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite, voters prefer the real thing. This is why Mr. Gomez's campaign continues to flounder. The national GOP should beware. If moderate Republicans cannot win here, and against a deeply flawed candidate such as Mr. Markey, then they cannot win anywhere.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.

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