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Gomez stresses military, family background

WEST BARNSTABLE – Republican Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez made his pitch Wednesday to a small audience at Cape Cod Community College, garnering votes as well as scrutiny of his moderate positions.

The meet-and-greet sponsored by the college’s economics club drew about 70 people, including Connor Cox, 22, an English major who lives in Sandwich.

“I’m not too big a fan that he gave money to Obama in 2008,” Cox said before Gomez’s arrival. “Other than that, I think he’s a stand-up guy.”

During his comments, Gomez focused on his background, which is seemingly written for a political campaign.

Gomez, 47, told the audience he is a first-generation American who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and became an aircraft Navy pilot.

“You guys weren’t even born back then,” he said. “‘Top Gun’ had just come out.”

He applied to the Navy SEAL program, became a member of SEAL Team 4 and met his wife, who was serving in the Peace Corps in the West Indies, when he served there, he said.

He graduated from Harvard Business School and has spent the last 16 years in the private sector, Gomez said.

“I’ve lived the American dream,” he said. “I’ve had an enormous opportunity.”

The country’s current trajectory is putting that same opportunity at risk for future generations, he said.

Gomez said he is running in the June 25 special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry because he wants to continue serving his country. In a dig at his powerhouse opponent – 20-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey – Gomez said he believes federal lawmakers should serve only two terms.

“We need to get back to a citizen-servant model,” he said.

In many of his comments, however, Gomez stressed his willingness to reach across the political aisle.

During a question-and-answer period, Gomez highlighted his support for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, adding that college credit should be available to servicemen and women.

He said he would have voted in favor of recently defeated legislation to expand background checks on gun purchases.

“You don’t need a national registry, but you need to have the same background check you have for a gun dealer,” he said.

He is encouraged that immigration reform is being addressed nationally, Gomez said, adding that he agrees with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, on a “path to citizenship.”

“After you secure the border and meet certain milestones, I think there should be a path to citizenship,” Gomez said. “I think that that path shouldn’t be easy, but it also shouldn’t be impossible, and this is where Marco Rubio is.”

Despite a relatively pain-free exchange with the audience, Gomez couldn’t escape questions about his particular place on the political spectrum.

“You contributed to the Obama campaign back in 2008,” said Ray Cox, Connor Cox’s father.

Ray Cox was undeterred when Gomez quipped that he didn’t think anyone knew about his well-known support for Obama five years earlier.

“Do you consider that money well-spent?” Cox said, adding that, at the time, Obama was an unknown quantity much as Gomez is now.

Gomez skirted the question, instead focusing again on his military credentials and family story.

Gomez said he would focus on two things if elected: what is best for the people of Massachusetts and what fits within fiscal conservative policies.

During an interview after shaking hands and answering one-on-one audience questions, Gomez confessed he didn’t know much about Cape-specific issues such as a call for federal funding for wastewater infrastructure and federal intervention to allow the Mashpee Wampanoag to take land into trust so the tribe can build a casino.

“Some of the issues I do know more about than some of the others,” he said, adding that he would be happy to discuss those issues once he has had a chance to do more research.

On Cape Wind, Gomez was more confident.

“Massachusetts already has some of the highest energy costs here,” he said about his position on federal loan guarantees for the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm. “I don’t think the government should be subsidizing something like Cape Wind.”

Reaction to his appearance was mostly positive. Lucielly Araujo, 22, appreciated Gomez’s stance on immigration reform, saying it’s good that he believes immigrants should have a chance to become citizens.

“I was glad that (his position) was kind of more Democrat than Republican,” said Araujo, who came to the U.S. from Brazil seven years ago, became an American citizen two years ago and is studying international business at the college.

Don Jepson, 67, of Wareham, said he planned to volunteer for the Gomez campaign.

“I think we need a change,” he said.

Jepson, an independent, said he worked for Democrat U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, and he valued access to candidates.

Connor Cox said he felt Gomez did a pretty good job even though he dodged his father’s question.

“Obviously a Navy SEAL is somebody you gotta respect,” he said.