BOSTON (AP) - The candidates in Massachusetts' special U.S. Senate election weighed in Monday on President Barack Obama's decision to begin arming rebels in Syria, while new campaign finance reports show Democrat Edward Markey holding a fundraising edge over Republican Gabriel Gomez as the race enters its final week.
Markey offered cautious support for Obama's plan saying he supports providing light arms to rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad as long as the CIA can guarantee the arms are going to "carefully vetted, pro-democracy insurgent groups."
"That is the job which the CIA will have to try to accomplish - to identify those groups that are democratically-oriented that don't want chaos to break out in the region and that could help to ensure that in a post-Assad era that we do have a Democratic Syria left standing," he said.
Markey said he's hesitant about enforcing a no-fly zone to protect rebel-held areas, something his Republican rival Gabriel Gomez said should be considered.
Obama authorized lethal aid to the rebels for the first time on Friday, after Washington said it had conclusive evidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. Syria accused Obama of lying about the evidence.
Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, said that evidence of chemical weapons use shows Syria has already passed Obama's own "red line."
"There should be a high threshold for committing U.S. ground troops ... but the president has a range of other options available to him," Gomez said in a written statement. "I continue to support a no-fly zone and hope the President and our allies will consider taking this action."
Gomez said there is a wider threat to U.S. allies in the region if chemical weapons fall into the hands of groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Markey is heading into the final campaign stretch with more than a two-to-one fundraising advantage. The election is June 25.
Markey's latest campaign finance report shows as of June 5 he had nearly $2.3 million left to spend compared to just under $1 million for Gomez.
The Federal Election Commission report also shows Markey has raised more than $7.8 million for the election, including more than $800,000 from political action committees.
Gomez has raised $3.3 million, including about $170,000 from PACs. Gomez's fundraising total includes a $900,000 loan he made to his campaign.
Markey, who had several million in his congressional campaign account before the election, has reported spending more than $8.6 million, far more than the $2.3 million spent by Gomez.
Spending by outside groups has also accelerated as the race heads into its final week. More than $6 million has been spent by outside groups on the primary and general elections combined. More than half of that, about $3.5 million, has been spent since the primary.
Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife, Teresa, visited Boston City Hall on Monday so Kerry could cast an absentee ballot in the special election to fill the seat he resigned earlier this year.
"I think you all know who I voted for based on my friendship and comments through the years," Kerry said in a reference to Markey. "I'm a Democrat through and through."
Also Monday, Markey defended his role in helping obtain millions in tax dollars for a hoped-for transformation of a polluted industrial site along the Malden River into a telecommunications center. The project was expected to create thousands of jobs.
While the jobs promised by the project, called Telecom City, have fizzled, Markey said there have been other benefits from the project, which he said was also backed by several Republican governors.
"It's cleaned up now. It is going to be a real long-term economic benefit for all three cities," Markey said, referring to Malden, Medford and Everett.
Gomez said the fate of the project, reported Monday by The Boston Herald, shows "Markey's record of putting Washington politics ahead of taxpayers in Massachusetts cost us $35 million and not one, single Internet job to show for it.
"Massachusetts can't afford Congressman Markey's failed economic policies," Gomez said in the statement.