BOSTON (AP) — Businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez on Tuesday won the Republican nomination to run in the state's special election for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by John Kerry.
Unofficial returns showed Gomez defeating former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and state Rep. Daniel Winslow.
In the June 25 special election, Gomez will face the winner of the Democratic primary between U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey. Results from that contest hadn't been tallied yet when Gomez won.
Gomez is a newcomer to politics. He's the son of Colombian immigrants and learned English in kindergarten. He became a Navy pilot and SEAL, earned an MBA at Harvard and launched a private equity career.
Kerry resigned from the Senate to become U.S. secretary of state.
The special election will be the state's second for the U.S. Senate in four years. Turnout was light for the primary, which was overshadowed by the deadly Boston Marathon bombing.
Even before the April 15 bombing, the campaign had failed to capture the attention of voters compared with the 2010 special election following the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown won the seat, surprising Democrats, but was ousted last year in another high-profile race by Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
A win would help Senate Democrats maintain a caucus edge of 55-45 as they press forward on major issues including immigration and gun control.
The Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured hundreds forced the candidates to temporarily suspend their campaigns. The bombing also brought national security and terrorism issues to the fore in a race that was expected to turn on questions of the economy, gun control, taxes, immigration and abortion.
In the Democratic primary, Markey staked out more liberal positions against Lynch, a former ironworker who tried to appeal to the party's working- and middle-class base.
Lynch had to explain why he was the only member of the state's House delegation to vote against President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, while Markey, who won his first elected office while in law school, fended off efforts to portray him as a Washington insider.
Markey was better-funded, having raised $4.8 million through the end of the last reporting period, compared with $1.5 million for Lynch. He also benefited from outside spending. Of the more than $2.2 million spent by outside groups, nearly 84 percent went to Markey, an Associated Press review of Federal Election Commission reports found.
On the GOP side, Gomez tried to portray himself as the new face of the Republican Party. The son of Colombian immigrants, he learned English in kindergarten, then went on to become a Navy pilot and SEAL, earn an MBA at Harvard and launch a private equity career.
Sullivan pointed to his national security resume, which includes helping investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the failed attempt to blow up an airliner using shoe bombs.
Winslow said he was the only candidate with experience in all three branches of the government. After 12 years as a private attorney, he was appointed to a judgeship on the state's district court in 1995. He served eight years and left to join former Gov. Mitt Romney's administration as chief legal counsel.
An independent candidate, Richard Heos, of Woburn, will be on the ballot with the Democratic and Republican primary winners.
Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick named his former chief of staff, William "Mo" Cowan, to fill Kerry's seat on an interim basis until after the special election.