The proliferation of prospects pursuing the Massachusetts Republican Party’s nomination for the special senate election is positive for the GOP and good news for the commonwealth. Several rising candidates could do more for the party than one exhausted and vulnerable Scott Brown.
When Senator Brown announced that he would not run the Mass GOP seemed poised to recede to its customary irrelevance. But since then some intriguing candidates have presented themselves. State Representative Dan Winslow may own the best political resume in the state, having served in all three branches of government, and he has carved out a reputation as the state’s Republican “ideas man.” Former Navy Seal and businessman Gabriel Gomez already has The Weekly Standard and The National Journal wondering if he is “The Next Scott Brown?” Sean Bielat, former tormentor of Barney Frank, has formed a campaign committee. And Michael Sullivan, a former state representative and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts is in the running.
The first task for these candidates is to get 10,000 signatures on nomination papers in less than two weeks. Gomez will leave that task to a firm that specializes in gathering signatures, at a cost of over $100,000. Winslow has some volunteers to gather the signatures, but also has turned to a professional firm. Sullivan has announced that his signature gathering effort will be entirely grass roots; no paying for signatures. If Sullivan succeeds, that is a big statement.
None of these figures may be your next senator so what good is this doing the Massachusetts Republican Party? It creates a healthy turbulence within the party. It has the potential to unleash new energy and attract new workers and activists to the GOP, who will form the core of the party for the next twenty years. That couldn’t happen in a party that picks a single senate or gubernatorial candidate to rally around and allows everything else to atrophy.
No one has any idea what will happen if three or four of these candidates face off across the state, debating issues, defining what the party stands for, where it stands in relation to the national party, engaging and inspiring activists, and attracting voters. It’s unpredictable; each candidate will be subject to some random and unexpected positive and negative events, they will react and bounce off each other and evolve. It will be exciting and it will leave the Massachusetts Republican Party in a much better place; maybe even better than if Scott Brown had run. In 2012 they could have Brown and Charlie Baker and Sullivan, Gomez, Winslow, Bielat and new blood inspired by one or another of them.
We can’t have a functioning democracy with only one party, but that is what we have in Massachusetts: a sort-of democracy. Perhaps the special senate election of 2013 will provide a spark that will catch for the Massachusetts Republican Party.