Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan decried what he called “personal” attacks coming from his fellow Republicans in the special Senate election, but said he is prepared to take fire from all sides over third-party campaign ads and his ties to former president George W. Bush.
“I was assuming we were going to be attacked from the Democrats,” said Sullivan, who discussed the race in a wide-ranging interview with the Herald. “I never thought it was going to get personal … it got a little personal.”
Sullivan is facing State Rep. Dan Winslow and Cohasset businessman Gabriel Gomez in the April 30th primary, who have both demanded he denounce ads from a political action committee backing him.
Sullivan countered that both Winslow and Gomez refused to sign a pledge that would prevent outside money from launching negative ads in the race.
“It’s curious now that they’re both complaining about outside money,” said Sullivan, who refused to denounce the Conservative Campaign Committee that took out radio ads hitting both Gomez and Winslow.
He also said he fully expects national Democrats to tie him to Bush — who appointed him to his U.S. Attorney post — and to the larger national Republican platform. Massachusetts voters, even Republicans, are traditionally more socially moderate.
“I think that’s going to happen regardless of which positions I take,” said Sullivan, who is pro-life and defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. “I don’t think there is anything I can do to prevent the Democratic machine from attacking me … I expect it’s going to be very unfair.”
Sullivan sided with another former U.S. attorney, former Gov. William Weld, on the prosecution for former Treasurer Timothy Cahill for using his office to promote himself during his campaign, saying it was “a little overboard.”
“These are standard operating procedures by political folks,” said Sullivan, though he said he believes the prosecution of former Probation chief John O’Brien is fair. O’Brien is charged with funneling campaign donations to politicians in exchange for jobs.
“Obviously if there is evidence to prove certain offenses I would have pursued it,” Sullivan said. “When I was there we did a fair amount of public corruption cases.”
Asked if he is taking any lessons from former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s playbook, Sullivan said the special Senate election is too different to depend on the same battle plan. Brown’s surprise 2010 victory came during a backlash against Obama’s health care reform law.
“I don’t think it’s going to be like Scott Brown’s race,” said Sullivan, who nonetheless said he hopes to transcend party lines like Brown. “We don’t have the same dynamics as Scott Brown’s race.”