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SCOT LEHIGH

Finally, Mass. GOP has some likely candidates

State Representative Dan Winslow talked with bank officials last March during a meeting at the Wrentham Co-operative Bank.

Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe

State Representative Dan Winslow talked with bank officials last March during a meeting at the Wrentham Co-operative Bank.

Kudos to Dan Winslow and Gabriel Gomez, the two Republicans in this state willing to join the race for US Senate.

Apparently willing, anyway.

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On Tuesday, Winslow declared himself “about 99 percent” ready to run, while Gomez, a former Navy SEAL and pilot, is making the Republican rounds, telling people he’s very likely to as well. Although GOP panjandrums speak well of him, Gomez, a Cohasset businessman, remains largely unknown.

Not so Winslow. A former district court judge and chief legal counsel for Mitt Romney and now a state representative from Norfolk, he is a familiar face in political circles. Speaking to reporters outside the State House, Winslow took pains to stress that as a Massachusetts Republican — “a different kind of breed from the national Republicans” — he puts a premium on reaching across the aisle in search of commonsensical compromise. A self-described social moderate and fiscal conservative, Winslow said his focus would be the deficit, immigration reform, and “economic sustainability [and] climate sustainability.’’

Gabriel Gomez

At the State House, the 54-year-old Winslow is considered a creative, energetic, occasionally impish ideas merchant. Two examples of his beyond-the-box thinking: He wants the University of Massachusetts to explore offering a three-year degree as a way to make college more affordable, and he has proposed converting the high-occupancy lanes on Interstate 93 into ones where the toll charge would vary with traffic volume, the better to offer a predictably quick trip to and from town.

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No, his ideas haven’t always gotten a warm reception, but that’s only to be expected; he is, after all, a Republican lawmaker in a House dominated by Democrats. And yes, some of his moves are publicity-seeking stunts, as was the case in December, when he stacked jars of Marshmallow Fluff outside the office of Governor Patrick’s then-chief budgeteer, each accompanied with a suggestion on cutting “fluff” from the budget. But so what? Winslow’s antics are almost always good-natured, and if you are a Republican in Massachusetts, you have to generate attention any way you can.

If he does run, one thing to watch will be where Winslow, who has earned an A-plus from the Gun Owners Action League, comes down on President Obama’s push for stricter gun laws. Tuesday, he declined to give details on that or any other topic, saying he would issue position papers if he runs.

Make no mistake here. In their willingness to step forward, both Winslow and Gomez aren’t just helping the GOP. They are doing the entire state a favor. Massachusetts needs the clash of ideas that a competitive two-party system brings.

But the GOP’s better-known figures have all decided to take a pass. That roster of reluctants includes Scott Brown, who held a Senate seat a little over a month ago; Bill Weld, who led a Republican revival in Massachusetts from 1990 to 1997; Charlie Baker, the GOP’s once and likely future gubernatorial nominee; Kerry Healey, the former party chairwoman, lieutenant governor, and 2006 GOP gubernatorial standard-bearer; and Richard Tisei, the former state Senate minority leader.

Honestly, it’s hard to blame any of them for deciding that discretion is the better part of valor. Massachusetts is a place where smart, credible Republican candidates regularly go down to defeat for reasons that are both frustrating and hard to remedy.

Brown himself doesn’t properly fall into that category. An incumbent US senator, he blew his opportunity to establish himself as a genuinely moderate leader of the sort Massachusetts admires and ran a reelection campaign that was short-sighted, shallow, and petty.

But Tisei’s loss last fall to John Tierney, the controversy-clouded Sixth District congressman, has to be discouraging. So, too, was Mary Z. Connaughton’s 2010 loss in the auditor’s race to Democrat Suzanne Bump. In both cases, the Republicans were the more compelling candidates.

Now that the GOP has two very likely candidates, Weld, Baker, Brown, Healey, and Tisei should put their shoulders to the wheel and help them get their signatures — and then help raise the money the eventual GOP nominee will need to wage a competitive race.

After all, if you’re a Republican running in Massachusetts, you need all the help you can get.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.
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