BOSTON — Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, the Gloucester Republican who helped mentor Scott Brown on fisheries and other North Shore issues during Brown’s 2010 special election run, is considering his own run for the open U.S. Senate seat, he told the State House News Service Tuesday night, saying his decision “absolutely” would be made by next Monday if not sooner.
Tarr said he started thinking about it after the announcement last Friday that his former colleague, Brown, would not seek to reclaim a seat in the upper chamber of Congress. The Republicans lost another potential candidate over the weekend when Richard Tisei, who preceded Tarr as Senate Minority leader and mounted a tight challenge to Congressman John Tierney last fall, also decided against running for the seat vacated when John Kerry was appointed Secretary of State.
“I’m giving it serious consideration, but there are a lot of challenging factors in this situation, not the least of which is the compressed time frame to be able to get 10,000 certified signatures, which regardless of someone’s interest in the race would make anyone have pause before moving forward,” Tarr said.
Citing the lack of time to conduct polling or focus groups, he said, “In many ways this is a very curtailed evaluation that you need to do without a lot of resources from the perspective of analysis.”
The 49-year-old Gloucester lawmaker spoke to the News Service on his way out of the State House to a meeting in Wenham, and said that he could bring the spirit of bipartisanship he has helped sponsor on Beacon Hill to the more contentious body in Washington D.C.
“I think my time up here has been characterized by strong efforts to find common ground,” Tarr said, citing his work on passing last year’s sentencing reform law, which eliminated parole for violent habitual offenders while reducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug violations. He said, “There is a model in this building that I think could well be followed in other places around the country, certainly inside the Beltway is one of them.”
As the minority leader who first entered the Senate in 1995, Tarr is the primary spokesman for the four Republicans in the 40-member body. A frequent voice in debates, Tarr challenges Senate Democrats to explain their reasoning while also gaining support for his own proposals, as in the most recent debate on joint rules where several Republican-led amendments were adopted.
Tarr has also spoken out about waste at the MBTA, in the state’s welfare program and against Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1.9 billion tax proposal to pay for transportation and education, priorities that Tarr said he would not abandon if he chooses to run for higher office.
“I will never lose focus on the task at hand, for a potential higher office, and I don’t intend to compromise on that one bit,” Tarr said.
Tarr said his rumination on a run for Senate was spurred by Brown’s decision not to run, which Brown announced last week. Tarr was assistant minority leader during Brown’s final years in the state Senate as well.
“Senator Brown said, ‘I’m going to Washington to represent the people of Massachusetts,’ and I think he did that,” Tarr said. “He took some votes that were controversial and irritated some folks in Massachusetts and certainly some folks, perhaps, in the Republican Party.”
On Tuesday, Rep. Dan Winslow, R-Norfolk, announced the launch of an exploratory committee to weigh a run for Senate, while Democratic Congressmen Stephen Lynch, of South Boston, and Ed Markey, of Malden, have already begun campaigning for the seat, which will be decided in April 30 primaries and a June 25 general election.
Beverly Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman, who also mounted a challenge and drew more than 16,000 votes in the 6th District congressional race between Tireney and Tisei, announced Tuesday that he, too, is seeking the Senate seat.
“I think it’s an interesting field. I don’t think it’s complete at this point. I think there’s room, certainly, for other folks to get into this race,” Tarr said. “We have two people that have a long history in Washington that are in the race, in terms of the Democrats, and I think that clearly there’s something to be said for sending somebody to Washington that won’t perpetuate the gridlock.”
Asked about the effort to reform the filibuster, which is often cited as the cause of gridlock, Tarr said, “The filibuster’s a tool that’s been in place a long time. It’s been used by both parties, and sometimes in Washington the things that don’t happen are as important as the things that do happen, but given the fact that we live in an extraordinary time of paralysis in Washington … I think filibuster reform is something we need to look at seriously.”
Tarr entered the State House as a state representative in 1990, the same year he graduated from Suffolk Law School. He had about $189,000 in cash in his state fundraising account at the end of last year, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, funds he would not allowed to spend on a race for federal office.