Republicans keep repeating that this federal government shutdown is going turn out differently than the one the GOP orchestrated in 1995. But just ask Peter G. Torkildsen—the former Republican congressman from Massachusetts was there.
“Some Republicans did pay a political price,” said Torkildsen, whose North Shore constituents narrowly voted him out in 1996.
Torkildsen was elected to replace Democrat Nicholas Mavroules. In 1996, he narrowly lost to the current U.S. Rep. John Tierney for many reasons, he said, not just voters angry over the shutdown. Indeed, it was a presidential election year, driving Democrats to the polls in a Blue State.
While the outcome of this shutdown is uncertain—the frustration is reaching a boiling point across the country—Torkildsen said it could have political implications in Massachusetts, where speculation has Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Sen. Edward Markey positioning themselves for a marquee rematch in 2014.
Earlier this week, Gomez tweeted blame for the shutdown on both sides’ inability to reach a deal. Torkildsen said Gomez is smart not to follow Washington leaders. “Republicans in Massachusetts have been elected to the U.S. Senate and governor by having their own principles,” Torkildsen said. “He’s staking out a position, and it’s a good thing if he chooses to run.”
Gomez has not declared his candidacy but reportedly was in Washington recently consulting about his chances to run for Congress.
Torkildsen said Gomez could also sting Markey by attacking him as an incumbent who was unable to work to avoid the shutdown. “As an incumbent, Markey could have a lot of explaining to do,” Torkildsen said.
Markey’s terrain could become further treacherous if the Senate isn’t part of a final deal to lift the shutdown, Torkildsen suggested. A deal between President Obama and Republican Speaker John Boehner and leaving out Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would make it hard to take credit.
Still, Gomez could have his own questions to answer. The shutdown was triggered by Republican attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act, which Gomez opposed during the campaign. Gomez could not be reached for comment.
The 1995 shutdown ended when Sen. Robert Dole helped broker a deal with the Clinton White House. Torkildsen called for President Obama to negotiate with Republicans to end the stalemate. “If Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill can work together, President Obama and John Boehner should be able to reach an agreement,” Torkildsen said.
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