John Kingston, a wealthy businessman, philanthropist, and major Republican donor, has emerged as a serious potential candidate for the GOP nomination to oppose incumbent Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren.
For the past several weeks, Kingston, 51, has been meeting with the state’s top Republicans, including political aides to Governor Charlie Baker, state party leaders, and major GOP donors as he explores a candidacy.
“I think he is moving down the path in doing it,’’ said one senior Massachusetts GOP leader who met with Kingston this week.
On Wednesday Kingston was in Washington, D.C., talking to national Republican leaders, a top Massachusetts GOP source said. He also met with the state’s GOP national committeeman, Ron Kaufman.
And he has spoken with a potential GOP primary opponent, Rick Green, a Pepperell businessman and GOP activist who is also considering running for the party’s Senate nomination, a Republican Party source confirmed. Both would likely have to compete for the moderate GOP voter base.
Kingston did not return calls made to his home and his office seeking comment.
Kingston, a Winchester resident who GOP officials say would be willing to put substantial amounts of his own money into the campaign, appears to be getting a warm welcome from Baker operatives and other establishment GOP leaders. A major concern for the governor’s political team is that the party’s US Senate candidate in 2018 be compatible with Baker and his political positions.
But Kingston could face opposition from the party’s conservative Tea Party wing. As Donald Trump prepared to accept the GOP presidential nomination last June, Kingston switched his party registration from Republican to unenrolled and led an effort to create a movement to field an independent candidate in the presidential election.
The self-described “non-partisan initiative” never evolved into a serious political effort, but it reflected the anti-Trump politics of Kingston’s political mentor, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who was a sharp Trump critic last year. Baker, too, refused to endorse Trump. Those moves against the party’s nominee stirred anger among Trump supporters in the state.
Already, several other names have emerged as potential Republican Senate candidates, including state Representative Geoff Diehl, who was a leader in Trump’s Massachusetts campaign. Others include Gabriel Gomez, the Senate nominee in the 2013 special election that Democrat Edward Markey won.
A Harvard Law School graduate who made a fortune with the global investment management firm Affiliated Managers Group in Beverly, Kingston has never run for office. But he has been active in recent years donating and raising money, particularly for Romney’s presidential campaigns.
Since leaving AMG, Kingston has also been involved in promoting Christian faith groups, sitting on the board of The Veritas Forum, and founding the Sword & Spoon Foundation and SixSeeds, two organizations that promote religious values. He also served as vice chairman of the National Faith and Values Steering Committee for Romney’s 2008 presidential candidacy.
He serves on the board of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Boston. And he has been a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Majority Makers and the Republican Governors Association Executive Roundtable.
Kingston has for the past decade showered Republicans across the country — from Kentucky to Texas to Ohio — with more than $100,000 in donations. He donated $2,700 last April to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, then a presidential candidate. He also gave $2,080 to Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio in May. He gave $40,000 to the state GOP between 2005 and 2010; $5,400 to former New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte; $2,300 to former New Hampshire senator John E. Sununu in his failed reelection bid in 2008; and $2,400 to Scott Brown just days before he stunned the political world by beating Martha Coakley for the US Senate seat Ted Kennedy held for 46 years.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.