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Tufts Republicans remain undecided ahead of Senate primary

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013

Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2013 02:04


As April has come and gone, Tufts Democrats have been enthusiastically rallying support on campus for Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in his race for the open Senate seat formerly held by Secretary of State John Kerry. Despite the fast-approaching primary on April 30, Tufts Republicans has been much less active in campaigning throughout this extended election season. 

Activity within the small group on campus has significantly decreased after former senator Scott Brown’s defeat last semester. 

“After the election didn’t go well at the end of the semester, things have calmed down a lot,” Tufts Republicans president Bennett Gillogly, a junior, said. “It’s been more ... off-campus events [with] three or four of us who are still committed to the cause.”

Massachusetts State Representative Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk, LA ’80), former Naval Special Warfare Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Gomez and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan are competing for the Republican nomination in the primary. Despite the Boston Herald’s recent endorsement of Winslow, the Huffington Post claimed on March 27 that Sullivan would remain the front-runner.

“Sullivan is older and a little more conservative,” Tufts Republicans member Ryan Grandeau, a sophomore, said. “It’s one of those things where, if he wins, we could support him.” Sullivan was the only one of the three candidates to oppose abortion in a recent GOP debate for the Senate seat. According to the Boston Globe, he has worked for the last few years as a partner in the office of the former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

“Mike Sullivan is more of your Tea Party type,” Gillogly said.

The newcomer to the primary is Gomez, the son of Colombian immigrants. After leaving the Navy in 1996, he returned to school to obtain an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked in the private sector.

“Gabe Gomez is a good fiscal conservative,” Grandeau said. “[But] people who are involved in finance aren’t always the best.”

Gillogly said he was disappointed in Gomez’ public persona. 

“He’s coming in as the outsider,” he said. “He’s got a great appeal, a good-looking family, [he’s] a Navy SEAL — [but] he’s not really doing well in his speeches.”

The final candidate, Winslow, received a law degree from Boston College Law School after attending Tufts and has worked in the private sector most of his career. He is the most bipartisan candidate, according to Gillogly, and has remained connected to Tufts Republicans.

“Winslow has always been great to Tufts Republicans,” Gillogly said. “I like him a lot as a person. He helped me out when I was starting to work for Scott Brown.”

Gillogly commented on Winslow’s likeness to Brown.

“He’s been in the State House for a long time,…[and] they were friends at Tufts. They’re the bipartisan problem solvers,” he said.

After Tufts Republicans supported Scott Brown in the Senate race last semester, throwing support behind Winslow would seem intuitive. There appears to be more divisiveness than unity in the Republican Party in general, however, making it difficult for Tufts Republicans to line up behind one candidate. According to Gillogly, the structure of the primary itself complicates the situation even further.

“In a primary, you have to be registered with the party ... The registered voters in Massachusetts [are] only 11 percent Republican. Only 11 percent of the state at all can even vote,” he said. “With 11 percent, [it] means that it is a tight-knit group in general. It was great when we had Scott Brown. After Scott Brown lost, everyone kind of started to pick sides. It really has divided the few of us.”

The Tufts Republicans have found that there is no obvious choice for which candidate to rally around in the primary. 

“Massachusetts politics are always rooted through the machine. Someone chooses for them. The Republican Party, however, is much divided in their support,” Gillogly said. “As far as the Tufts Republicans’ involvement, every Republican has had to tread very carefully. I personally know people working on all three of the campaigns.”

Due to this divide, Tufts Republicans has not yet officially declared which candidate it will support.

“We’re not going to throw ourselves behind any candidate. If I had to pick, I’d say Dan Winslow,” said Grandeau. “I wish that we were the same way [as when] it was for Scott Brown, [but] it’s another thing to get excited about, regardless of our involvement.”

Gillogly remarked on his extreme caution in the primary.

“With 11 percent, we have to make sure we don’t have too much animosity,” he said. “As Tufts Republicans, we’ve made a conscious effort to stay out of this one. As much as I would love to get us involved, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”

Tufts Republicans Vice President Ellie Monroe, a sophomore, also explained their lack of involvement.

“We as a club haven’t really gotten involved with the primaries, but will stand behind whoever wins the primary in a week,” she told the Daily in an e-mail.

With the small number of Republicans on campus, it becomes more difficult to organize events and rally together.

“It’s tough to get organized. We’re never going to be the Tufts Democrats,” he said. “It will never be super prominent, but if it exists, that’s good. We’ll be the first to say that we can improve.”

“Tufts Republicans has never been a huge group on campus,” he said. “It’s such a tight-knit group that I know personally the guy who started Tufts Republicans in 1978. We do a good job with each other, but it’s never been a big group on campus.”

According to Gillogly and Grandeau, being a Republican in Massachusetts is a unique experience — as is being a Republican at Tufts.

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