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Sullivan Shakes Up GOP Contest for U.S. Senate Seat

Friday, March 01, 2013

 

Now that all candidates for the U.S. Senate special election to replace John Kerry have submitted their nomination papers along with the 10,000 signatures necessary to appear on the April 30 primary ballot, GOP latecomer Michael Sullivan seems poised to have an impact on the Republican nod by kicking off a three-way race within the party.

Sullivan, who served as U.S. Attorney for Mass. from 2001 to 2009 and as Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives from 2006 to 2009, stands in somewhat stark contrast to his opponents in the primary race.

State Rep. Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk), a former state judge and former chief legal counsel under former governor Mitt Romney from 2002 to 2005, and Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez round out the field.

Sullivan riding early buzz

"Early buzz suggests that Michael Sullivan is going to be a high profile candidate to contend with, besides he is presenting a very stark option on social issues with his anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality positions," said Srinivasan Sitaraman, a professor of Political Science at Clark University. "So this might shake-up the Republican field a little bit more and he might emerge as the more respectable and experienced candidate among the three on the Republican side."

All three candidates were able to gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot by the Wednesday deadline. While some have noted the fact that Sullivan collected the necessary signatures solely through the use of volunteers, unlike Winslow and Gomez who both used paid signature gathers at least in part, Clark's Robert Boatright said it sounds more like a ploy to get attention for Sullivan's campaign than any indication of greater grassroots support as Sullivan's backers have claimed.

Gomez's baggage

While both Sullivan and Winslow have experience in public life, Gomez is a newcomer to the Massachusetts political scene, but he has received some support from within the state's Republican party establishment. State Committeeman Brent Andersen and Committeewoman Mindy McKenzie-Hebert of Worcester’s 2nd state Senate District announced their endorsement of Gomez on Thursday following his official campaign kickoff that morning.

“He is a prime example of the type of dedicated citizen representative we need serving our Commonwealth on Capitol Hill. He is motivated by his love of country, family, and freedom and has a proven track record in defending constitutional principles," they said in a joint statement.

“Our country needs leadership in these challenging times and Gabriel Gomez will lead and serve our Commonwealth with honor. We are proud to stand behind Gabriel Gomez for U.S. Senate here in the 2nd Worcester State Senate District.”

However, a mixed bag of politically-related reports on Gomez have emerged in recent weeks, including news that he wrote to Governor Deval Patrick asking for the interim Senate appointment for the seat he is now in the running for, that he made donations to President Barack Obama's campaign in 2007 and 2008 and that he acted as a spokesman for a short film critical of Obama's handling of the killing of Osama bin Laden. How those actions will sit with voters is an open question.

"Gomez's action both within and outside the party could be construed as a sign that he does not have a very coherent ideological worldview," Sitaraman said. "So this could be potentially exploited both by the Republicans in the primary and of course surely by the Democrats if he wins the primary, which at this time seems like a long shot."

For his part, Boatright said Gomez's baggage may prove to be an issue in the general election, but it's unclear how it would play out in the primary, which will likely be a low-turnout election.

Dems doings

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, U.S. Reps. Ed Markey (D-Malden) and Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) continue their respective campaigns, with Lynch picking up the endorsement of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth, and Markey received the backing of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a national organization advocating for and providing comprehensive information on reproductive rights across the country.

The two Democrats also agreed to a debate schedule, which will cram six meetings, including one in Worcester, into the short campaign cycle before the April 30 primary and all but guarantee that Lynch and Markey remain on the public's radar despite the three-way race running concurrently in the GOP camp.

"I see six debates for the primary as a bit of an overkill," Sitaraman said. "This suggests that both candidates are very confident and they are ready to debate on issues and topics, which is a good thing for the electorate assuming that the moderators are going to force them to answer difficult and challenging policy questions. Having watched both of them speak, I can say it would be very difficult to predict a winner or loser this early at least. Both of them seem like forceful debaters, who are unlikely to concede that easily."

Boatright said that the underdog candidate always benefits from debates, so the six meetings on tap will be advantageous for Lynch.

"I think, though, Markey benefits as well given that he does need to introduce himself to voters outside of the Boston area," he said.

 

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