Sullivan backing Mass. GOP Senate rival GomezBy STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
May. 7, 2013 6:44 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — A former Republican primary rival threw his support behind Gabriel Gomez in the state's special U.S. Senate election Tuesday as they wrangled with Democrats about Gomez's involvement in a group that criticized President Barack Obama over the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
Michael Sullivan, who labeled Gomez an "Obama Republican" when the two ran against each other during the GOP primary, stood alongside the former Navy SEAL at a waterfront park in Boston and called him "a leader for Massachusetts."
Sullivan also took the opportunity to fault Gomez's Democratic opponent, Edward Markey, for posting a campaign video online that criticized Gomez for speaking on behalf the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc., which has faulted Obama for taking too much credit for the raid that killed bin Laden.
Gomez spoke for OPSEC in television interviews last year, but has since distanced himself from the group.
At one point in Markey's video, Gomez is seen in the same frame as images of bin Laden. The image of bin Laden comes from a 22-minute OPSEC video critical of Obama.
Sullivan called Markey's video "dishonorable."
"Ed Markey's decision to juxtapose Osama bin Laden with any American, let alone a veteran and former Navy SEAL, is outrageous and despicable," Sullivan said.
Gomez said Tuesday he was never associated with OPSEC, never donated to the group and wasn't part of it.
"What I had problems with was that President Obama took too much credit and more importantly his administration leaked way too much information that was sensitive" about the bin Laden raid, Gomez said Tuesday. "As a result, the military members of that unit, their families and themselves are at greater risk."
During an interview last year on MSNBC, Gomez both praised Obama for giving the green light for the special operation that targeted bin Laden in Pakistan but also said Obama should have given more credit to the troops and taken less credit for himself.
"I represented a point of view," Gomez said Tuesday. "I never represented the group."
At a separate news conference Tuesday, Democratic Newton Mayor Setti Warren defended Markey and took Gomez to task for speaking out last year on behalf of OPSEC, which Warren labeled a "right-wing, secretly funded special interest group."
"Gabriel Gomez is trying to distract from the fact that he attacked the president of the United States over the death of bin Laden by attacking his own ad that he went on national television to defend," said Warren, an Iraq War veteran. The ads were widely discredited, he added.
OPSEC, which describes itself as a social welfare organization, spent nearly $500,000 last year on its political activities last year. It does not disclose its donors.
More recently OPSEC has tried to raise money pointing to the assault last year in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The group is also pushing for a special committee in Congress to investigate the attack.
As the campaign picks up, both sides say they'll have the money and backing to mount a vigorous campaign.
Markey was expected to release his first television ad of the campaign Wednesday.
Gomez, who has declined to sign a pledge aimed at discouraging spending by outside groups on campaign ads, said he's "confident that we're going to have the resources and the assets to compete" with Markey.
"What I have on my side is I've got the right message," Gomez said. "We're talking about the economy, the economy, the economy."
Sullivan said that despite his criticism of Gomez when the two were opponents in the Republican primary, Gomez is a far superior choice compared to Markey.
"You say some things during a course of a campaign obviously to point out some differences," Sullivan said.
Also Tuesday, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO announced that it has formally endorsed Markey.
The election is June 25.