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A Real Senate Race

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It was looking dicey for a while there, but finally—to the great relief of both Massachusetts’ small but stalwart Republican party and voters of all stripes who enjoy the notion of a healthy democracy—we have a bona fide Senate race.

After considerable hemming and hawing, the GOP has turned up not just one but two contenders for the special election to fill John Kerry’s recently vacated Senate seat: state Rep. Dan Winslow of Norfolk and Gabriel Gomez, an eastern Mass. businessman and retired Navy SEAL. Assuming they collect the necessary voter signatures, they’ll face off in a party primary on April 30, the same day that Congressmen Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch meet in the Democratic primary. The general election will be held June 25.

Making matters even more interesting, Jack E. Robinson, a lawyer and business executive who in the past has run for several state and federal offices as a Republican (most recently, losing to Scott Brown in the 2009 GOP Senate primary), has announced that he’s also taken out papers for this year’s Senate race, but this time will run as an independent.

And the field could become even more crowded: potential candidates have until Feb. 27 to submit 10,000 signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth to earn a place on the ballot. Among the names still in play at deadline was that of former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, a Republican.

This eleventh-hour burst of interest means the GOP likely will have a contested primary. Not long ago, of course, it was looking like the party might not be able to scrape up even one candidate, after former Sen. Scott Brown, who in November lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren, announced that he didn’t intend to run for the Kerry seat.

Instead, Brown has signed on as a contributor on Fox News—while, many speculate, gearing up for a run for governor next year. (There’s already a “Governor Scott Brown 2014” page on Facebook; late last week, it had 1,315 “likes,” including one from a young man who posted that if 5,000 Facebookers “like” him back, “my Dad will let me get a pet unicorn.”)

Indeed, the race to succeed Gov. Deval Patrick, who will leave the office next year at the end of his second term, is generating almost as much buzz as the special Senate election. Last month, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray announced that he won’t run for the governor’s office.

That was a sharp turnaround from comments Murray had made just a few months earlier, when he spoke openly about wanting the job, although, ultimately, it wasn’t very surprising. Already dogged about a somewhat mysterious early-morning car crash he had in 2011 (a state police report said the lieutenant governor was driving more than 100 miles per hour at the time), Murray is now under investigation by the Mass. Office of Campaign and Political Finance over campaign contributions he accepted from Michael McLaughlin, the controversial former head of the Chelsea Housing Authority. McLaughlin resigned from that job in 2011 after a Boston Globe report showed he was earning a whopping annual income of $360,000 while only putting in 15 full workdays over the course of a year. He was recently charged with multiple federal felonies for allegedly under-reporting his income to government regulators for several years.

OCPF has said it’s found evidence that McLaughlin and another housing authority employee raised money for Murray in violation of laws that prohibit public employees from doing so. A spokesman for Murray told the Globe that the lieutenant governor never authorized McLaughlin to raise money for him, adding that “no one is more upset by [McLaughlin’s] behavior” than Murray is.

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a progressive Democrat from Somerville, said he was considering a 2014 gubernatorial run, telling WBUR, “Part of me thinks that some of the more interesting, more important fights over the next several years might be conducted at statehouses around the country and not necessarily on Capitol Hill.”

Other names mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates include state auditor Suzanne Bump and treasurer Steve Grossman, both Democrats, and, on the Republican side, healthcare executive Charlie Baker, who ran for the seat in 2010, and former state legislator Richard Tisei, who last fall ran for Congress and had considered running for the vacant Senate seat.•

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