Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan is kicking off what he's calling "a grass-roots effort" to collect the signatures needed to get on the Republican primary ballot for the state's special U.S. Senate election.
Sullivan said in a statement Thursday that for the past 10 days he has been giving serious consideration to entering the race to replace John Kerry, who left the Senate to become U.S. secretary of state. He said he wants to see if he can collect the required 10,000 voter signatures before the Feb. 27 deadline using volunteers instead of paid signature gatherers.
"I have been overwhelmed by the groundswell of support and sacrifice by others to draft me into this race," Sullivan said. "I am humbled by friends and strangers alike who have sacrificed their personal and family time to gather signatures in order for my name to be placed on the ballot."
Also Thursday, Republican businessman Sean Bielat filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to form the Sean Bielat for Senate committee. Bielat did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday, but he told New England Cable News he was still weighing a run and was "very much in the exploratory phase."
Norfolk state Rep. Daniel Winslow and Cohasset businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez already have announced they're running on the Republican side. Another Republican, state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, announced Thursday he won't be a candidate.
Sullivan said he's been advised that attempting to gather 10,000 certified signatures using only volunteers with just two weeks left is "impossible," but he's decided to try anyway.
"It is an enormous task, but I know that anything is possible," he said.
Plymouth County Republican Chairman Vince Cogliano said Sullivan supporters already have begun collecting signatures.
Winslow and Gomez have said they plan to use volunteers and paid gatherers to collect the signatures they need.
Sullivan has strong support among fellow Plymouth County Republicans, including state Rep. Vincent deMacedo, who called him a "big star" in the state party for his years as a state and federal prosecutor.
"He's earned a lot of respect around the state," deMacedo said.
Sullivan served as Plymouth district attorney before being named U.S. attorney for Massachusetts in 2001 by former President George W. Bush. He was appointed acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in 2006. From 1991 to 1995, he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Most recently, the Abington resident has been a partner in the Boston office of The Ashcroft Group LLC, a law firm founded by former U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Reps. Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch have announced their candidacies.
The primaries are scheduled for April 30. The special election takes place June 25.
On Wednesday, Markey and Lynch announced an agreement aimed at discouraging outside groups from launching television, radio and Internet ads in the Senate election.
The deal is based on a similar pledge signed by Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren during last year's Senate race, which Warren won. The deal between Markey and Lynch also includes money spent on direct mail advertising, which wasn't covered by the agreement between Brown and Warren. The two said they are encouraging Republican candidates to sign the pledge.
Winslow said he wasn't interested in it. The onetime judge, who was chief legal counsel to former Gov. Mitt Romney, said Markey and Lynch were posturing and already have plenty of money in their campaign accounts.
"I welcome any outside group to contribute positive bio or issue ads, mailings, social media and the like," he said. "I am running a different kind of campaign. I am not an entrenched Washington insider who has to sign a pledge in order to run a fair, clean, positive campaign."
Massachusetts Democratic Party head John Walsh accused Winslow of giving in to the "far right" of his party.
Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg and Denise Lavoie contributed to this report.
This article was originally published on February 14, 2013.
This program aired on February 14, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.