BOSTON — It appears there will be a Republican primary in the special U.S. Senate election to fill John Kerry’s seat, as at least three Republicans are taking steps to qualify for the ballot, and a few more are still making up their minds.
Cohasset businessman and former U.S. Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez has joined the contest, releasing a launch video on Tuesday.
State Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr will announce Tuesday whether he’s running.
Already in the race and gathering nomination signatures are state Rep. Dan Winslow and former Ashland Selectman John Featherston.
The deadline to submit 10,000 signatures is Feb. 27.
To examine where the GOP race stands right now, Republican political consultant Fred Van Magness joined Morning Edition Tuesday morning.
Bob Oakes: Ten thousand signatures turned in two weeks from now — how big a hurdle is that for these folks?
Fred Van Magness: Anytime a statewide candidate is running, they have a huge challenge getting 10,000 signatures. But in the special election, with the short time frames involved, it’s a huge challenge. They rely on having good organizations or having the money to go pay someone to get these signatures for them.
That is, in fact, happening with a couple of these candidates: They’re paying organizations to help them out. None of these candidates is very well known statewide, so does a primary election benefit them?
It can benefit them. It can be a chance for them to get increased name identification with voters, to get well known, to start running some ads, that sort of thing. It can also be an obstacle because it makes them spend money early before the general election. And they can kind of beat up on each other a little bit, which can be a problem if you’re a candidate.
How tough is fundraising going to be for the Republicans in this special race?
I think it’s not an insurmountable challenge, but I think it will be difficult. We’re just coming off a big presidential election, so a lot of these donors have already given money recently. It’s going to be difficult for these candidates to tap into those networks, but I think they’ll succeed in doing that. And I think it’s something that affects all the candidates equally, so it’s a level playing field.
At least one of the Democrats, Congressman Edward Markey, has a pretty sizeable campaign war chest. Whoever the Democrat is, will Democrats nationally chip in pretty heavily for that person?
You would think so. When Scott Brown ran, he also got some heavy support from national Republican networks. One of the things that affects some of the Republican legislators running is that they can’t use money that they’ve raised in their state accounts toward a federal election. They’re starting from zero, whereas Markey and Lynch already have their federal networks established and can use that money for the race. But it’s just one of those challenges the Republicans will have to overcome.
You mentioned how Republicans came together nationally to help elect Scott Brown in his first Senate election, that special election against Martha Coakley in 2010. What lessons can this crop of candidates take from that as they move through the primary and then one of them into the general election?
For Republicans in Massachusetts, they’re all trying to be the next Scott Brown. The lessons they can take away from it is they need to be bold, they need to step up to the plate and show people a clear contrast with their Democratic opponents. And I think people are also very interested in seeing true leadership from both candidates from both sides of the aisle right now. So they have to show people how they can lead in Washington, how they won’t be part of the problem, how they’ll be part of the solution in Washington and offer real ideas to start changing things for the better of Massachusetts.
Do you think any of the candidates are the next Scott Brown? Are they ready to be that person?
It’s early in the race. I think that none of them has really shown themselves to be that person yet, but it’s not funny that they haven’t because they are still at the signature-gathering stage. They haven’t defined themselves. What we’re going to have to wait and see is how do they define themselves, what will they fend for, how will they interface with voters going forward, and how will they try to take up that mantle as the Republican candidate.
When it comes down to the election in June, one Republican vs. one Democrat, will it be a competitive race or is a walk-over for the Democrat?
No, I think it will be a very competitive race. I think that, certainly for the Democrats, they don’t want the seat to go into Republican hands. There’s a high premium in keeping that in the Democratic hands. But for Republicans, particularly nationwide, this would be an important pick-up. Those numbers in the Senate are so close that both parties really want to retain the seat, so I think you’ll see a lot of pressure there — and just here locally. Both parties want their candidate to go down to Washington, D.C. It’s almost sort of a do-over in a sense of what happened in November. So I think it’ll be an extremely competitive race and look for a lot of news from it over the next couple of months.