Gabriel Gomez and Edward Markey spent their final debate Tuesday night before next week's U.S. Senate special election clashing over their records and who has the better vision for both their commonwealth and their country.
It was about halfway through the debate, during a segment that allowed the candidates to question each other directly, when Peabody entered the conversation.
Markey said Gomez was on the board of directors for a Peabody-based global company that laid off local workers and sent those jobs overseas. Federal assistance then went to help those workers, he said.
"Wasn’t there a way to keep the jobs here in Peabody, Massachusetts?" Markey asked.
Gomez' response was that the company, Synventive Molding Solutions, along with the rest of the American auto industry, was experiencing a serious economic slump at the time, but the industry was growing in Asia and that's where the corporation decided to grow its operations.
He said Synventive is doing much better now.
"If we didn’t do what we did, that company wouldn’t be around today," Gomez said, noting it was still located in Massachusetts. Synventive, which manufactures machinery to pipe hot plastic into molds for car parts and electronics, has corporate headquarters at 10 Centennial Dr. in Peabody and has facilities in more than 20 countries.
"Everybody knows his [Gomez'] business plan…that says lay off people here, ship the jobs overseas and then have the federal government pick up the tab for those people who are left behind in Peabody," said Markey, before the debate moved on to other topics.
Markey was referring to a recent story in the Boston Globe that reviewed Gomez' business background. The story mentioned that Gomez served on the board of directors at Synventive during his tenure at the private equity firm Advent International.
The paper reported that Gomez was part of a team at Advent that purchased Synventive in 2005 from another investment firm. As the automotive company struggled financially in 2009 for the reasons Gomez mentioned Tuesday night, and while some of its major clients (General Motors and Chrysler) were filing for bankruptcy, layoffs were being made in Peabody.
All told, 50 employees ended up losing their jobs while Gomez was on the board and at least 18 of those jobs went overseas to China and Germany, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Those 18 workers were then offered government assistance to re-train because their jobs went overseas, reported the Globe. Synventive was sold to another investment firm in 2010, still saddled with $160 million in debt.
Tuesday's debate, taped in Boston, broadcast on several local networks and moderated by veteran city newsman and Boston University professor R.D. Sahl, was the last of three contests before voters head to the polls to fill U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's former seat.
No matter the issue, be it taxes, gun control, abortion, national security and their own personal and professional histories, the two men found disagreements at every turn.
Each candidate could agree on one thing: they believe the other candidate's ideas are "old and stale."
Markey, a Democratic congressman from Malden since 1976, went after Gomez, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and businessman from Cohasset, about not disclosing his clients from his time working at Advent International.
"We don’t know who he worked for," Markey said. "We have to know who’s side he’s going to be on."
Gomez corrected Markey, saying his firm didn't have clients but actually had investors. Among his investors: President Barack Obama, among many other public sector employees.
"President Obama would not be an investor if we were $17 trillion in debt," said Gomez, who mentioned several times that the national debt has swelled from $670 billion to $17 trillion since Markey took office.
Gomez has been a champion of term limits for members of Congress, but was challenged by Markey, who asserted that Gomez surely didn't tell Arizona Sen. John McCain he shouldn't run for his seat again when the former presidential candidate came to campaign for him recently.
Gomez said he had, in fact, told McCain that he should be term-limited. Markey simply could not believe that was true.
"Are you calling him a liar?" Sahl asked.
"I'm saying that did not happen," Markey said.
Within that exchange, Gomez listed a number of areas where he believes his party is wrong right now, including immigration, gay marriage, expanded background checks for firearms sales, the environment and global warming.
"Nothing's going to change if Mr. Markey wins this election," Gomez said. "We're going to have the same D.C. down there and we're going to have the same dysfunction."
On gun control, Markey asked Gomez why he opposed a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and where a civilian would "need a weapon where they could shoot a gun with 100 bullets in under 2 minutes."
Gomez said Markey was "completely misrepresenting my position" on gun control and claimed to be the only one of the two candidates to be able to work across the aisle to get an expanded background checks bill passed.
Markey posed the question again, saying Massachusetts citizens are "not the laggards, we're the leaders on assault weapons bans and we want one for the whole country."
"I want to ban all weapons from the wrong people," Gomez said.
Gomez, in his closing statement, said he hoped the people of Massachusetts would give him 17 months to prove himself in office as a Senator. Markey, in his closing remarks, said he wanted to join the Senate to "ensure the 21st century is more educated, more healthy, more prosperous and more fair than the 20th century was."
The election is next Tuesday, June 25.