Republican state Rep. Dan Winslow made his campaign for the Senate official Thursday.
Winslow, a former judge and legal counsel to Mitt Romney and ex-Sen. Scott Brown, is the first GOP candidate to get in the race.
"I ask your prayers and good will for my family and me in this effort," he wrote in a letter to local activists. "I will give it everything I have."
In a short interview, Winslow said his campaign would be focused on the deficit and the economy. Asked about his close ties to Romney and Brown, two Republicans who lost Bay State electoral contests last November, Winslow replied: "I am my own man. I have a record of being socially moderate and fiscally conservative."
He is one of four Republicans who have pulled nominating papers from the secretary of state's office. As of Thursday afternoon, papers have been pulled for Winslow, MBA student Joshua Hill, former Ashland Board of Selectman Chairman Jon Fetherston and Therese M. Rohrbeck.
Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the office, cautioned there is no official list of candidates yet because they are not required to give their names when they pull papers to run — although most do.
“It’s a bunch a people who are nobodys and Dan Winslow,” said one Massachusetts GOP operative, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly.
But the operative noted that former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez and state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr might still get in the race.
They'll need to move quickly. It's an arduous process for GOP candidates to get on the ballot in the Bay State.
Republican candidates must submit at least 10,000 certified signatures of registered GOP voters or registered unaffiliated voters to the secretary of state's office by March 6.
Candidates must also submit those signatures for certification to their respective municipalities by Feb. 27. For example, candidates must submit registered voters' signatures from Cambridge, Mass., to Cambridge election officials for certification, Boston signatures to Boston officials, etc..
Democrats go through the same process to get on the ballot, but it's easier because there are more registered party members in the heavily Democratic state.
For Republicans, illegible signatures and those of unregistered residents or Democrats will not count, which means far more than 10,000 signatures must be collected. And that take times.
The new chairwoman of the state Republican Party, Kirsten Hughes, encouraged candidates to move quickly in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
"While many potential candidates have been considering a run for the U.S. Senate, now is the the time to make a decision and start gathering signatures to ensure they make the ballot," Hughes said. "The party has sent signature sheets to State Committee members so they are prepared to begin collecting signatures as soon as a candidate officially declares."
"I anticipate our party will have a contested primary election, and I think that will prove beneficial in energizing our grassroots in preparation for the general election," Hughes said.
Winslow, who is using both paid vendors and volunteers to collect signatures, said he was confident he would appear on the GOP ballot. He is loaning his campaign $100,000.
The Republican nominee will face the winner of a primary between Democratic Reps. Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch.
Roll Call rates the race as Likely Democratic.