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Sullivan weighs a run for US Senate, Tarr bows out

Former US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan announced today that he is “giving serious consideration” to running for US Senate, reaching out to activists and operatives and collecting signatures required to qualify for the April 30 Republican primary ballot.

Sullivan stopped short of formally declaring his candidacy, instead saying he will allow volunteers to try to get him on the April 30 primary ballot by collecting 10,000 certified voter signatures by Feb. 27, a daunting task. He will not hire professionals to do the work, which is expensive but far more effective in such a short timeframe.

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“I have been advised by some individuals, much more experienced than me, that attempting to gather signatures through volunteers with less than two weeks left is impossible,” he said. “But I have decided to take on that challenge to see if we can prove the experts wrong and collect the necessary signatures through a network of volunteers.”

Activists, particularly in his home base of Plymouth County, have been encouraging the 58-year-old to run. Supporters have created a Facebook page to generate interest and collect signatures, titled “Draft Michael Sullivan for US Senate.”

Sullivan, a former district attorney and state legislator who is now a partner in John Ashcroft’s law firm, could have a significant impact on a Republican primary. He was acting director of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms under President George W. Bush.

Matt Sisk, a member of the Republican State Committee, was among the party activists who were thrilled with Sullivan’s entry into the race.

He said Sullivan can unite the various factions of the GOP – including social and fiscal conservatives, and establishment figures.

“Mike has a tremendous amount of grassroots support,” said Sisk, who plans gather signatures for Sullivan outside Shaw’s in Braintree on Saturday and Roche Bros. in Quincy on Sunday. “He’s got the experience, he’s got the resume, he will be a bridge builder.”

Sullivan is one of several candidates who have made partial commitments to entering the race. Thursday featured multiple ambiguous signals from would-be candidates, adding to a sense of flux in an emerging Republican field. The uncertainty is due in large part to the abbreviated campaign and the surprise decision by former Senator Scott Brown not to run.

Brown debuted on Fox News as a paid commentator last night.

Sean Bielat, who lost two recent US House races to Barney Frank and Joseph P. Kennedy III opened a federal campaign account this week, typically a step towards joining the race. Bielat did not return a call seeking clarification.

However his former campaign consultant, Sarah Rumpf, said Thursday on her blog that she had spoken with him twice and that he is merely exploring a run at this point.

“Anyone who is saying he is ‘definitely running’ is misinformed or lying,” she wrote. “However, he has not completely ruled it out.”

State Senate minority leader Bruce E. Tarr said Thursday that he will not run for the seat. But he predicted a robust primary.

“The early press reports were that this was a party that was going to have trouble finding candidates and I think the reality is we’re not going to have that problem at all,” Tarr said. “The question is going to be how many and who are they?”

Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL and private equity manager, has said he is running as a Republican, as has Representative Daniel Winslow, a former judge and aide to Mitt Romney.

Winslow said Thursday that he will not sign a pledge intended to curb spending from political action committees in the race. Two Democrats seeking their party’s nomination -- Representatives Stephen Lynch and Edward Markey -- announced Wednesday that they had signed the pledge, pioneered in the recent Senate election between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown.

“For congressmen Markey and Lynch to posture about outside money in politics when their coffers are already filled with money from outside Massachusetts just shows you how inauthentic this pledge really is,” Winslow said in a statement.

John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, fired back in a statement, accusing Winslow of giving “in to the far right wing of the Republican party.”

“So, when the Karl Rove sleazy ads start airing, voters can thank Winslow,” he said.

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed. Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.
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