BOSTON (AP) - Democrat Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez are gearing up for the first of three televised debates in the state's special U.S. Senate election.
Markey, a 36-year veteran of the U.S. House, and Gomez, a financial executive and former Navy SEAL, are scheduled to square off Wednesday evening in a debate sponsored by WBZ-TV and The Boston Globe.
The candidates said they were looking forward to the debates that were shaping up as pivotal for both candidates but especially Gomez, who has touted his political newcomer status but remains an unknown quantity to many Massachusetts voters.
The winner of the June 25 special election will fill the Senate seat previously held by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Markey's campaign released a new radio ad in advance of the debate.
The ad seeks to press Gomez on a series of issues, including whether he supports or opposes the so-called "Blunt Amendment" that would have allowed employers to refuse coverage of services, such as birth control coverage, for "moral reasons."
Gomez has said that while he is Catholic and personally "pro-life" he would not push to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.
The ad also presses Gomez to release a full list of clients he's worked with during his years as a private equity investor with the firm Advent International.
Gomez is hoping to use the debate to give his campaign a boost and cast Markey as an out-of-touch Washington insider who has spent 36 years in Congress and doesn't understand the needs of ordinary citizens.
"This election is about the future, not the past. It's about having new ideas and fresh ideas as opposed to old and stale ideas," Gomez said during a recent campaign stop at Polartec, a Lawrence textile company.
Markey has portrayed the debate as a chance to "talk about the big issues and to ensure that the voters out there know what the differences are between me and Gabriel Gomez."
Both campaigns are also calling on big names in their respective parties for help raising money and energizing voters for them.
Markey is looking forward to an assist from President Barack Obama, who plans to stump for Markey next week in Boston.
Gomez, who has lately tried to distance himself from the National Republican Party, is getting a visit from New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday. They plan to visit the marathon bombing memorial in Copley Square.
Outside money is also beginning to pour into the election, much of it in support of Markey.
The League of Conservation Voters, a Washington D.C.-based environmental advocacy group, is pledging a $400,000 direct mail campaign to back Markey. The group hopes to reach 150,000 Massachusetts households with the flyers.
NextGen Committee, a group backed by California billionaire Thomas Steyer, has launched an online ad campaign for Markey, including spending $153,000 for ads on Pandora, a popular Internet radio site. The group is opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline project.
Markey and Gomez also were scheduled to meet in western Massachusetts on June 11 and again in Boston on June 18.