Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Republican Winslow Following Brown's Path

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, February 11, 2013.


By Bill Gouveia

When it comes to races for the US Senate, the Wrentham/Norfolk area has played a major role in producing republican candidates. Now there’s a sentence you would not have used ten years ago.

Former Wrentham selectman Scott Brown moved on to succeed Ted Kennedy in the Senate, before ultimately being defeated this past year by Elizabeth Warren. Now current state representative and former Norfolk town moderator Dan Winslow has jumped into the short but critical race for the senate seat left vacant when John Kerry became Secretary of State. The parallels are both obvious and fascinating.

Winslow was elected to the state legislature to fill the spot vacanted by Richard Ross when he moved to the state senate to replace (you guessed it) Scott Brown. Both are republicans who stress their “independent” streak. Both are entering statewide races after potential candidates with far greater name recognition and political experience declined to run. Both will experience their first attempt at higher office in a special election with a drastically reduced campaign period.

But while they share similar political stories, they are different in their political styles.

Both are lawyers, but have followed different career paths. Brown was not active in the political arena in a legal sense, while Winslow has served in some high-powered public legal positions. He was the former chief legal counsel to former governor Mitt Romney from 2002-2005 and also served as presiding justice of the Wrentham District Court.

Where Brown was relatively low-key during his brief local and state political career, Winslow has gone out of his way to garner publicity and be noticed. Brown filed little in the way of legislation during his time on Beacon Hill. Winslow has sponsored a slew of bills, though few of them have made it very far in the legislative process. Brown was primarily known for his personality and blue-collar image, while Winslow is known for his ability to navigate the political scene and promote both himself and his positions.

Winslow revels in being known as “an idea guy”, and promises to bring that ingenuity and pluck to the senate. He has shown a willingness to get involved in many political issues, often through unusual means and methods. Last year he said he was personally hiring a former state police detective to investigate the man slotted to be the executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, though he would accept public donations for the same purpose.

Known for his unquestioned intelligence, quick wit, and political shrewdness, Winslow is a good candidate for state republicans after their high-profile candidates have declined to run. Winslow understands the importance of public relations in politics, and does not shy away from that aspect.

With the election to be held in the spring, the senate campaign promises to be long on politics and short on issues. There will be the usual stuff, with the eventual candidate from both parties decrying the “gridlock in Washington” and promising to pursue change. Winslow will enjoy an advantage in that regard if he is the nominee, since whoever wins the democratic nod will be an incumbent congressman with a political record to attack. Winslow’s political career thus far is long on ideas and philosophy, but short on actual achievements and legislative accomplishments. It is one thing to make suggestions, but yet another to make them happen.

Winslow is a former town moderator, and I had the pleasure of meeting him at a gathering of the Massachusetts Moderator’s Association. During his time at the helm, Norfolk’s Town Meeting underwent changes designed to reach out to voters and get them involved. This is a skill candidate Winslow will have to again utilize as he tries to convince voters across the Commonwealth he is the right person to represent their interests in Washington.

After being involved in Scott Brown’s campaign, Winslow knows well the enormity of the task before him. But he has the right attitude to take it on, and anyone who underestimates him will do so at their own peril.

There won’t be much time for Dan Winslow to work his PR expertise on voters, but he apparently comes from the right area of the state. You think it’s something in the water?

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

No comments: