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Michael J. Sullivan disavows anti-gay rhetoric of supporter

Former US attorney Michael J. Sullivan, under fire from one of his rivals for the Republican Senate nomination, disavowed on Monday the anti-gay rhetoric of a Tea Party leader whose group is planning to run ads on behalf of Sullivan’s candidacy.

Sullivan said he disagrees with Lloyd Marcus, a Tea Party activist and leader of the Conservative Campaign Committee, who has called gay rights activists ‘‘outrageously aggressive’’ and ‘‘relentless, vicious and hell bent on forcing’’ people to accept that homosexuality is normal.

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“That’s outrageous,” Sullivan said Monday during a WRKO-AM radio debate with one of his GOP rivals, former Navy SEAL GabrieI E. Gomez, who assailed Sullivan for accepting the group’s support. “I condemn those statements.”

Sullivan’s campaign manager had initially declined to condemn Marcus’s comments, declaring late last month that “we don’t have a litmus test” for those who want to help the campaign.

Marcus’s committee has said it is planning to spend $45,000 on radio ads and $115,000 on TV ads to help Sullivan defeat Gomez and the third Republican in the race, state Representative Daniel B. Winslow.

During the testy WRKO debate, Gomez came under attack from Sullivan for writing a letter to Governor Deval Patrick in January asking the governor to appoint him to the interim Senate seat. In the letter, Gomez called himself a supporter of President Obama, praised Patrick’s “bold and thoughtful leadership,” and pledged to support Obama’s agenda on immigration and gun control.

“It wasn’t gutsy,” to praise the Democratic governor and president, Sullivan told Gomez. “It was gushy.”

Gomez said he was proud of the letter, but said, “I would have used different words,” and “it wasn’t written by someone through a political lens.” He also said he now disagrees with Obama’s stances on gun control and immigration, despite what he told Patrick.

Both candidates sought to appeal to core Republican voters during the debate, calling themselves “pro-life” and strong supporters of the Second Amendment.

While those stances could help them in the GOP primary, their comments could come under fire from Democrats in the general election.

Sullivan, for example, boasted that “the NRA and I had a great relationship” when he served as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from 2006 to 2009.

Democrats have been pouncing on the NRA for opposing tougher gun laws in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

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