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Editorial: Senate choices

Despite turnout numbers that could qualify as anemic, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has set the stage for a special election for U.S. Senate race.

In Edward Markey, a Democrat and member of the state’s congressional delegation, and Gabriel Gomez, a Republican and ex-Navy SEAL turned private equity entrepreneur, the public has two distinct choices in finding a replacement for John Kerry, who’s moved on to become Secretary of State.

Markey is a seasoned politician who has been in the House of Representatives since 1976, where he has burnished his liberal credentials. To earn the right to appear on the June 25 special election ballot, the veteran representative defeated fellow congressman Stephen Lynch.

In Gomez, the primary voters selected a political novice and son of immigrants as the party’s candidate from a field that also included Mike Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney, and Dan Winslow, a state representative.

With just short of two months to campaign, both candidates will be have to both convince people why they deserve their vote and get them out to the polls.

Markey would seem to have the edge based strictly by party affiliation, since registered Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by roughly a 3-to-1 ratio. But based upon numbers from last year, both parties combined are outnumbered by the unenrolled voters. And while many of these voters may tilt left, neither candidate should take their votes for granted.

If anything, both candidates during this compact election season will have to make sure they are connecting with the electorate. That has to be the lesson from the last special election in the state, which was called to replace the late Edward Kennedy and where an energetic and affable state Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, was able to snatch a victory away from the Democrats’ pick in Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Will political lightning of this type in Massachusetts strike twice? The public will probably hear from the pundits that another such result is unlikely.

But voters don’t like to be taken for granted and a candidate who makes that mistake will risk seeing people either vote for their rival or stay home.

The seat is there for the taking. Who wants it more will be determined in the coming weeks.

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