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Locals pick sides in Senate race

With the race in the special election for US Senate kicking into gear, local GOP and Democratic Party leaders are starting to take sides and hitting the campaign trail for their candidates.

Two Democrats and three Republicans are running to fill the US Senate seat that John F. Kerry gave up to become secretary of state. The primary elections are April 30 and the special election is June 25.

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Robert Colt, a member of the Democratic State Committee and chairman of the Winchester Democratic Town Committee, is backing US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden in his primary contest with US Representative Stephen F. Lynch of Boston.

“He’s been our congressman for a long time and I know him,” Colt said of Markey. “He’s always there. He’s conscientious, he’s good on constituent services. And he’s strong on the issues. He’s a national leader on the environment and energy. . . . He’s a pro but he’s still very personable and gets around and talks with people. We like that.”

Darek Barcikowski, Salem Democratic City Committee chairman, is in Lynch’s corner.

“His story really appealed to me. He grew up in South Boston in the projects and worked his way up, put himself through school and worked hard his whole life,” said Barcikowski, who is serving as paid coordinator of the northeast part of the state for the Lynch campaign. “We need people like that, people who can lead by example, people who work their way up.”

Markey led Lynch by 29.5 percentage points among potential Democratic primary voters in a UMass Lowell/Boston Herald poll released March 6. Markey led the three Republican candidates — state Representative Daniel B. Winslow of Norfolk, former Navy SEAL Gabriel E. Gomez of Cohasset, and former US attorney Michael J. Sullivan of Abington — by margins ranging from 17 to 23 percentage points.

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Haverhill City Councilor William H. Ryan, a member of the Republican State Committee, is backing Winslow.

“They are all good candidates, but I believe he’s the strongest candidate,” he said. “He’s a very smart man. He’s a proven general counsel for the governor and the Republican Party. . . . He’s been elected as a state representative. He would be excellent debating the Democrats. I think he would be well-received by Massachusetts voters.”

Ryan, a former Haverhill mayor, worked with other Winslow backers to gather nearly 300 signatures for the Republican candidate in the city. He said he hopes to accompany him on visits to the area. “I’m going to do everything I can to get him elected,” Ryan said.

Joyce Kelly, a Republican State Committee member from Revere, thinks Sullivan is the right choice.

“I have a favorable impression of all three candidates,” she said of the GOP hopefuls. “But at this point, people I respect and who are knowledgeable like Sullivan, so that’s where I’m going.” She said she also liked the fact that the signatures on his nomination papers were collected by volunteers. Winslow and Gomez paid firms to assist with their signature drives.

Scott F. Conway, a Republican State Committee member from Melrose, is backing Gomez’s candidacy.

“I just feel Gabriel Gomez gives us a fresh new face, something we haven’t seen in the Republican Party,” Conway said. “He was a Navy SEAL, he’s a Latino, and he’s not a politician. We need that.”

Arthur Powell, a Democratic State Committee member from Beverly, collected signatures for Markey and helped promote a recent campaign event at which the congressman greeted about 75 people at Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Pub in Beverly.

“I’ve followed Ed a long time. I sincerely think he has what will be necessary to win,” Powell said, adding that Markey’s agenda “most closely matches my own.”

Marie Sweeney, a Democratic State Committee member from Tewksbury and chairwoman of the Greater Lowell Area Democrats, also gathered signatures for Markey.

“I’ve followed Ed Markey’s career since he went in Congress in 1976,” said Sweeney, noting that for a decade Tewksbury was part of his district. “While he’s always been focused on the district and their needs . . . he always saw the bigger picture and he’s made an impact in Washington.”

State Representative Robert F. Fennell of Lynn is assisting with the Lynch campaign. Fennell, who is on the Democratic State Committee, has campaigned with Lynch in Lynn and Peabody.

Fennell said he is supporting Lynch as a friend of nearly two decades — the two met when they entered the State House together — and as a hard worker who has remained true to his South Boston roots.

“He’s never forgotten where he came from,” Fennell said.

Another Lynch backer, former Methuen mayor William M. Manzi III, helped with the signature drive and organized a campaign event at a senior complex in Methuen.

“Lynch, for me, has a compelling life story,” Manzi said. “He actually worked as an ironworker. He . . . worked his way through night school to get his law degree. He [has] lived himself the day-to-day issues many people face.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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