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“I always feel optimistic about our chances because it is sort of a pattern that we have the best candidates,” Walsh said. “Our candidates stand for things that most people in Massachusetts really care about. We are ready to go, we have been working for more than a month to prepare all of the support and logistics so that the day after the primary we will be there to help the candidate in that final push.”
On the other side of the ballot, the Massachusetts Republican Party has two confirmed candidates, but many names floating in the wind as potential contenders.
State Representative Daniel B. Winslow and the relatively unknown Gabriel Gomez will contend represent the GOP after the party was shocked by former senator Scott Brown’s decision not to run. Brown has since taken a job as a commentator for Fox News.
Following Brown’s declaration, a series of similar decisions came from other prominent members of the party. Former governor William Weld, former state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei, 2010 republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker, and Tagg Romney, Mitt Romney’s eldest son, have all declined to run in the election.
“What I can tell you is what whichever Republican wins the nomination will be a clear contrast to whoever the Democrats nominate,” Massachusetts Republican Party Communications Director Tim Buckley said. “Markey and Lynch are two creatures of Washington, D.C. who together have spent a lifetime in the nation’s capital as part of the dysfunction, as opposed to the Republican who will undoubtedly be a fresh face and be able to offer a new direction to Massachusetts voters.”
Winslow was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2011 after delivering a campaign heavily focused on cutting taxes by cutting state spending. He is a member of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Joint Committee of Rules, Joint Committee on States Administration and Regulatory Oversight and the House Committee on Rules.
Gomez, a private equity investor and former Navy SEAL, is a relatively unknown quantity. He has made no public comments on his campaign, but in a press statement Gomez said he was not a Washington insider and derided Washington partisanship.
“Senator Brown shocked the world in 2009 and there is no reason we can’t repeat that success,” Buckley said. “Historically, we have been successful in a couple of special elections so we are very optimistic about this election.”
Special elections come with a set of challenges that is unique to the condensed time frame. While most senatorial election campaigns begin up to 18 months in advance, candidates in the special election have less than six months to win over their constituents.
Perhaps the most challenging goal of harnessing support comes Feb 27, the deadline by which candidates must have gathered 10,000 certified signatures from Massachusetts residents before they can be placed on the ballot.
“For any candidate that is thinking about running, the short timeline in the election is a logistical issue,” Walsh said. “The deadlines that come with this election are going to be a real challenge for people who don’t have a state wide political base or name recognition.”
Neither Markey nor Lynch is a stranger to this type of campaign. In November 1976, Markey won his position as Representative from Massachusetts’s 7th district in a special election against Richard Daly. Similarly, Lynch was sworn into office following a special election in October 2001, replacing John Joseph Moakley, a US representative of almost 30 years.
“I know that Markey already has himself a first-rate field coordinator and he is already got some terrific young people to go out there and start organizing a grassroots campaign,” Dukakis said.
“Grassroots organizing makes a huge difference. [Elizabeth Warren] is a United States Senator today, in my opinion, because she had one of the best grassroots organizations that had ever been put together in a state. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to start early.”
With all eyes focused on the special election, declarations for the 2014 gubernatorial election have taken a back seat. Both sitting Gov. Deval Patrick and sitting Lt. Gov. Tim Murray have confirmed that they will not run for the position.
“I think that if we didn’t have this Senate race right now, there would be a much bigger urgency for people to make decisions on running [for governor],” Walsh said. “Because so much of the energy of campaign organizers seem to be focused on the senate race, it has postponed the timeline of when people really need to get going.”
As of now, the only confirmed candidate for governor is democrat Joseph Avellone, corporate senior vice president at Parexel and a former Wellesley selectman.
“I’ve always been interested in public service and, originally, my career was shaped around health policy,” Avellone said. “The focus of why I want to be governor is helping to grow a 21st century economy in Massachusetts, and also to maintain universal access by controlling health care costs.”
Avellone heads the global division of Parexel, a drug development company, and is former chief operating officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. A self-proclaimed “moderate democrat,” Avellone considers himself to be socially liberal, but fiscally moderate.
“I really think that the focus [in 2014] will be on growing the economy and coming from the private sector and managing organizations. I have a unique ability among candidates to lead the state in doing that,” Avellone said. “It is good to have someone with a business orientation when the focus needs to be on the economy. I understand what it is going to take to get ahead and a lot of what it takes is a trained work force.”