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Republicans blast Sullivan for third-party ads

Republican US Senate candidate Michael J. Sullivan is facing criticism from his rivals for claiming ignorance about campaign ads made on his behalf by a conservative group whose leader campaigns with the Tea Party and rails against the “homosexual agenda.”

His opponents in the GOP primary, Gabriel E. Gomez and Daniel B. Winslow both called for Sullivan to clarify his connection to Conservative Campaign Committee.

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Committee member Lloyd Marcus. a Tea Party leader, inveighs on his blog against homosexual activists, saying they have brainwashed children in schools.

Marcus told the Globe last week that he was raising money for ads that would benefit Sullivan, whom he called the true conservative in the special election for US Senate.

Sullivan told NECN this week, “I have no idea who this guy is, couldn’t even tell you what his message is.” But his campaign manager Paul Moore told the Globe last week that while he was unaware of any institutional Tea Party support for his candidate, “anyone who wants to get out and help Mike is welcome to get out and help Mike.”

“We don’t have a litmus test for someone who walks in the door and wants to lick an envelope,” he said.

Moore reacted to criticism today from the rival GOP camps by calling them “desperate for attention.” He continued to distance Sullivan from the conservative group without denouncing it.

“We believe voters will judge Mike based on his record and message, not the personal opinions of someone he has never heard of,” Moore said in a statement.

The Conservative Campaign Committee is producing radio and television ads to boost Sullivan’s candidacy.

The Hill reported today that one radio ad directly targets Gomez for supporting President Obama’s first presidential campaign and for promising in a letter to the governor to support parts of the president’s agenda if appointed to the open Senate seat.

Unlike the Democrats who are trying to limit negative outside advertising in the race with an agreement that bans third-party ads, the Republicans made no such deal.

Gomez today called on Sullivan to either embrace the ad’s messages or renounce the statements “from this extreme group.”

”Politicians like Mr. Sullivan wink and nod about out of state interest groups and then have them sling mud on their behalf,” Gomez said in a statement. “Rather than hide behind out of state interest groups, Mike Sullivan should either disavow the statements from this extreme group and demand that they take their attack ads elsewhere, or Sullivan should man up and deliver these attacks himself.”

Winslow’s campaign said it’s not surprising that an anti-gay group would launch the first negative attack in the Republican primary.

“What is surprising is Mike Sullivan’s continued silence when asked repeatedly to disavow the support of such groups. He can no longer claim ignorance of their views,” Winslow spokesman Charlie Pearce said. “If he cares about Republican electability in June, he will end his silence and speak up for decency and tolerance.”

When Scott Brown ran in the special election for US Senate in 2009, he declined to embrace or denounce the Tea Party’s agenda but reaped huge benefits from the support of the group that was then rising as a powerful voice and opposing president Obama’s health care plan.

Sullivan, an abortion opponent and the only Republican in the current Senate race who opposes gay marriage, has already picked up much of the socially conservative base. His rivals in the Republican primary are trying to tie him to an agenda that’s more conservative than the general populace in socially progressive Massachusetts.

The winner of the April 30 primary faces a June special election against whichever Democrat prevails -- US Representatives Edward J. Markey or Stephen F. Lynch.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @stephanieebbert.
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