Massachusetts Republicans have finally found their man

Scott Brown

Former Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) declined to run for the seat vacated by John Kerry. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl, File)

Massachusetts Republicans have had a hard time finding someone who can run for the Senate seat vacated by John Kerry. One by one, proposed candidates took themselves out of the running: Scott Brown, former governor Bill Weld, former state senator Richard Tisei, former lieutenant governor Kerry Healy, and Tagg Romney. For a moment, this looked like it would be a race where the real fight would be for the Democratic nomination, and the winner would face marginal opposition from a placeholder

Now, that scenario looks unlikely. The state Republican establishment has found someone exciting to fall behind, and he fits perfectly with the GOP’s effort to reinvent itself. This morning, Gabriel Gomez — a venture capitalist, former Navy SEAL, and son of Columbian immigrants — announced his bid for the Republican Senate nomination. And following the lead of another prominent Latino Republican, he began his announcement in Spanish before switching to English.

Unlike both Democratic candidates — who are long-serving House members — Gomez is new to politics. But he comes with a few notable advantages. First, by virtue of his occupation, he’s able to raise huge sums of money. Second, he has assembled a serious staff of officials from Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and Scott Brown’s reelection bid.

Of course, as a Republican in Massachusetts, Gomez doesn’t have good odds. And a Brown-style upset is unlikely — Democrats won’t make the same mistake twice. What’s more, he still has to win a primary against State Rep. Dan Winslow, who announced his candidacy over the weekend. Winslow doesn’t have the establishment support enjoyed by Gomez, but he does bring years of political experience.

It should be said that this election is an instance where participation matters more than winning. Given the high likelihood that Democrats will keep the seat, Republicans could have run a sacrificial lamb and moved their attention elsewhere. By working to find a decent candidate, with views that reflect the electorate in question, the Massachusetts GOP has made one thing clear — it wants to be a viable opposition party.

To borrow from conservative writer Justin Green, it’s important for the country’s future that a conservative party is viable in the Northeast. It provides necessary balance to the libertarian-tinged conservatism of the West, and the reformed Calhoun-ism of the South. Win or lose, Gabriel Gomez represents the first steps toward rebuilding a conservatism with national appeal.

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect, where he writes a blog.

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