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Unopposed candidate makes case with ‘Zagzign’

State Representative Dan Winslow says he’s always on the lookout for solutions. So, facing a Norfolk bylaw that limits the size of political yard signs, Winsl­ow found a way to provide double the messaging in the same amount of space.

“I guess I have a lot of time on my hands,” said the Norfolk Republican, even though he works full time as a lawyer in addition to his Beacon Hill duties. “I like to think of new ways to solve problems.”

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Indeed, that’s the message printed on Winslow’s new invention — the “Zagzign,” which has a raised, accordion-style surface that changes its appearance for motorists as they drive past his yard. Viewed from one angle, the sign reads “Winslow.” Look at it from the other way, and it reads “Solve Problems.”

This isn’t Winslow’s first attempt at revolutionizing campaign signs. During Scott Brown’s campaign for the US Senate special election in January 2010, he came up with the idea of spraying colored gelatin over stencils to put campaign messages on snow banks.

This time, necessity is not the mother of invention. Wins­low faces no opponent for reelection, and he had only a single prototype of the sign printed.

But Winslow said he has heard from other politicians who want to replicate his idea. In addition to allowing for extra words, Winslow said, the Zagzign catches the eye and could help politicians boost their name recognition more than traditional yard signs, which are ubiquitous during election season.

“It almost creates the optical illusion of animation as you drive by it,” Winslow said. “It really pops out.”

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The signs cost about $10 to produce, Winslow said, or around double what a typical campaign sign would cost.

Spencer Kimball, a Republican political strategist and political communications professor at Emerson College, said he’s never heard of anything like the Zagzign before.

“I would definitely say it’s creative,” Kimball said. “I’m not surprised, coming from Representative Winslow. He comes up with a lot of innovative ideas.”

Winslow, 54, is a former judge and served as chief legal counsel for Mitt Romney when Romney was governor. He was elected to the Legislature in 2010, after three years as Norfolk’s moderator, the official who oversees town meetings.

As Norfolk’s moderator he increased turnout to town meetings, and as state representative he has pushed for alimony reform and for easing restrictions to allow builders to create small, affordable homes.

Charlie Kennedy, a Wrentham selectman and a Democrat who supports Winslow, said he appreciates what he sees as Winslow’s emphasis on solving problems over party politics.

“Not everything is going to work. But if you don’t start coming up with these ideas to improve things, you’re never going to get anywhere,” Kennedy said.

Scott Harshbarger, the 1998 Democratic nominee for governor, now works with Wins­low at a Boston law firm, Proskauer. He said he sometimes agrees to disagree with Winslow about politics, but they also often see eye to eye.

“His proposals that I’ve seen are often designed to solve problems, not based on ideology,” Harshbarger said. “You may not agree with them. You may have other ideas. But at least they’re ideas, not just ideology.”

Winslow’s name has been tossed around in political circles as a potential gubernatorial candidate, a notion Harshbarger did little to tamp down.

“I think he would be very formidable, particularly as a Republican candidate, because there’s a very weak bench there,” Harshbarger said. “Someone with Dan’s ability and talent, I think, is a very interesting candidate.”

Winslow, for his part, deflected the question of his future. “I want to be a really good state representative and focus on that for the time being,” he said. “I have no idea what the future holds.”

One thing seems certain: His next campaign yard signs are likely to be interesting.

Calvin Hennick can be reached at calvinhennick@yahoo.com.

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