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GOP prods a hesitant Scott Brown to run for Senate

With time running short, Washington Republicans have begun a “full court press’’ to persuade an increasingly reluctant Scott Brown to run in the special election to replace John F. Kerry, say two leading Massachusetts GOP figures.

The eleventh-hour effort, coordinated by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, comes as those familiar with Brown’s deliberations are becoming convinced that he will not run and instead will look for a job in the private sector.

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The committee has lined up some of Brown’s former Senate colleagues to mount the campaign to persuade him to run. They are telling Brown he is the party’s best and probably only hope to win the June 25 election in a state that traditionally sends Democrats to Washington, said those GOP figures, who ­declined to comment on the record. Brown will probably disclose his decision in the next few days.

As the pressure mounts on Brown, a proudly defiant Stephen F. Lynch launched his Senate campaign Thursday by casting himself as a blue-collar political outsider and his rival for the Democratic nomination, Edward J. Markey, as an out-of-touch creature of Washington.

Crossing the state on a five-stop tour, Lynch, the congressman from South Boston, repeat­edly contrasted his 18 years as an ironworker who grew up in public housing and spent time on the unemployment line with Markey’s 36 years in the House.

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“I respect that service, but I think it creates an insulated person from what’s happening here on the ground and what average families are worried about,” Lynch said after greeting ironworkers and patrons at the Parkway Diner in Worcester. “I can relate to the people I seek to represent in a much better fashion.”

Lynch’s pointed rhetoric sets the stage for a heated primary against Markey, a Malden ­Democrat, who is the favored candidate of party leaders. Those figures, who include ­Kerry and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed Markey weeks ago in hope of avoiding the kind of intra­party fight Lynch is now sparking.

“It will be an uphill fight for me, but the fight is worth fighting,” Lynch declared at a morning stop at O’Brien’s Corner in Springfield. “Shame on us to ­allow someone to clear the field, box out all the other candidates, and buy the election.”

The national GOP, meanwhile, is trying to encourage Brown by telling him he is at the height of his popularity and has a campaign and fund-
raising structure still in place from last year’s race against Elizabeth Warren. The GOP senatorial committee is also ­expected to outline the financial resources and other support that it can muster on Brown’s behalf.

Brown has been politically inactive and has raised no money since his defeat in November. Since he left the Senate last month, Brown has spent part of his time continuing his work as the assistant to the chief legal officer for the National Guard Bureau, at the Pentagon. His ­income has dropped dramatically since he left the Senate, adding to the allure of the private sector.

Brown’s silence on the Senate race has created anxiety in Republican leadership ranks. The timeline for making a decision is narrowing, given the need to gather 10,000 certified signatures from voters within four weeks, which could be a hurdle if the GOP is forced to rely on a less-known backup candidate.

Brown’s wavering has ­already produced a potential ­rival for the GOP nomination. Gabriel E. Gomez, a former US Navy Seal and fighter pilot who has worked in financial services for the past 16 years, said Thursday he is “seriously considering’’ jumping into the race.

Gomez, a 47-year-old ­Harvard Business School graduate from Cohasset, would not rule out a challenge to Brown for the party’s nomination, saying only that “I will cross that bridge when we get there.”

Brown has told state Republicans and others in his circle that he is exhausted from the intensity of the last two campaigns. He often notes that if he ran and won, he would have to immediately gear up for a fourth tough campaign in 2014 to win a full six-year term.

Brown’s spokesman, Colin Reed, said Tuesday and again Thursday that “there is no announce­ment at this time.” Neither Brown nor the GOP senatorial committee responded to messages seeking comment Thursday.

On the Democratic side, Lynch has about $800,000 in the bank, compared to ­Markey’s $3.2 million, and has taken some conservative stances — opposing abortion rights and voting against President Obama’s health care law — that could prove problematic in a Democratic primary where liberal voters have a large influence.

But Lynch vowed to outwork Markey, who has held few campaign events since he entered the race in late December. He also boasted that his labor support could help him muster the volunteer army needed to ­defeat his colleague from Malden. Several hundred union workers turned out Thursday to support Lynch at his biggest event of the day, a kickoff rally at the Iron Workers Local 7 hall in South Boston, where Lynch was once the union president.

Surrounded by ironworkers, Lynch sparked loud applause when he declared that if voters send him to the Senate, he will stand apart.

“I would not fit in in the United States Senate,” Lynch declared. “But neither would you!”

Lynch’s antiestablishment pitch and blue-collar background could appeal to some Democrats.

“I don’t like anyone being canonized for a job,” said ­Kathleen Murphy, a Democratic activist, who met Lynch at O’Brien’s in Springfield. “All I know is that he comes from humble beginnings, and I have a great respect for humble ­beginnings.”

On the campaign trail, Lynch downplayed his opposition to legalized abortion, one of a few key policy differences he has with Markey, who supports abortion rights.

“I don’t think that undermining or repealing Roe v. Wade makes things better,” Lynch said. “It doesn’t limit abortion. It just changes the setting from a clinical one to one that’s more dangerous for women.”

Nevertheless, he said he would vote to confirm Supreme Court nominees who oppose abortion rights. “Absolutely,” he said, saying the issue is not a “litmus test” for him.

Markey said Thursday night that he welcomed Lynch’s entry into the race, but sent a pointed message about the need to champion liberal values.

At a Democratic state committee meeting that Lynch also attended, Markey declined to respond directly to his rival’s charge that he is out of touch with working people, saying he wants to run a positive campaign. But he emphasized that he, too, comes from a blue-
collar family. “My father drove a truck for the Hood milk company, and he gave me the opportunity to drive a truck for four years when I needed to pay for my school at BC,” Markey said.

Noah Bierman of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Ellen Ishkanian and Colin A. Young contributed to this report.
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