In 2010, after winning the Massachusetts House seat once held by friend Scott Brown, Winslow vowed to serve only three terms, staged his first State House press conference before being sworn in, and filed four dozen bills as a freshman, several times the norm — raising eyebrows among some lawmakers, who questioned whether Winslow was charging toward a run for attorney general or for governor.
Instead he jumped into the Senate race after Brown decided not to run, brushing aside suggestions of opportunism.
He views the Senate special election as a chance to rebrand the GOP as a socially inclusive party focused on smaller government and free-market principles. Because Winslow has been pitching for years the need to reach out to women, minorities, and young voters — long before Romney got trounced among such voters — he considers himself the man for the job.
“Massachusetts has an opportunity to set the agenda, to set the tone, and to set the direction for our country” ahead of the 2014 midterms, said Winslow. He believes tentative economic recovery can become full-blown success, “if we can only unfetter that American spirit from the excessive burdens and crushing regulations . . . and take some of our freedom back.”
Despite being a ready quote on Beacon Hill for a decade, Winslow in March polled the lowest name recognition of any Senate candidate from either major party.
Aware that time is short in a compressed primary season to make up those numbers, Winslow has been campaigning at breakneck speed against GOP competitors Gabriel E. Gomez and Michael J. Sullivan, reminding voters in an overwhelmingly Democratic state that he offers the most moderate politics of the three. A Republican who supports gay marriage and drives an electric car, Winslow believes that if enough people hear his pitch and review his record, he’ll get the votes he needs.
The colorful character on the campaign trail isn’t a construct of political handlers, it’s who he has been since childhood, when he remembers fretting that all the good inventions had already been invented. His early creativity included painting gloves Day-Glo red and green to help traffic cops get their message across faster.
Early on, a sense of urgency
Often taken for a Brahmin, Winslow had a modest, rural upbringing, living partly in a trailer where a UMass dorm complex now stands in Amherst. His mother, the daughter of Italian immigrants, worked as a nurse. His father, who can trace ancestry to a colonial coffin-builder, fought in Korea and settled in Amherst after attending college on the GI Bill. Initially an antenna repairman, he stopped scaling towers when his sons were born.
Daniel was the first of five boys, one of whom died in infancy, an early memory seared on Winslow’s mind. That loss seems partly why his mind and body are always churning: “I don’t know how much time God gives me on this earth, and I want to get something done before I go.”
Winslow’s father eventually built a telecommunications business, mortgaging everything, his son said, after refusing to pay a kickback to a “prominent politician” dangling a public loan. The experience imprinted Winslow with a sense that government can help or harm business. It also inspired his Tufts University thesis on the corrupting role of money in politics.
Winslow went from Tufts to Boston College Law. A national mock-trial finalist, he landed a job as a litigator at a boutique firm and made a name arguing election law for the Republican Party.
He successfully challenged Beacon Hill Democrats for drawing unconstitutional legislative districts after the 1985 state census and again with congressional seats after the 1990 US Census.
“In court it was a level playing field,” he recalled. “The Democrats were just not used to a fair fight, and so they were really bad at it, shockingly bad.”
In both lawsuits, Winslow and the GOP teamed with the Black Political Task Force, initially a marriage of opportunity. But task force leader Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling said she saw in Winslow a commitment to diversity, affirmed in his later advocacy for women and people of color in Republican circles and at white-shoe law firms.
Even though she has long been a Democratic consultant, Ferriabough-Bolling praises the man she calls “my buddy Dan Winslow” and even wrote him a campaign check in 2010. “He’s shaking things up,” she said. “You may like him or dislike him, think he’s a showboat or not, but I look past that to the fiber of the guy.”
But as his name recognition was on the rise, it wasn’t always for his legal work. In 1990, while a 32-year-old member of the Norfolk Planning Board, his house was firebombed by an allegedly frustrated strip-mall developer after Winslow pushed tough but far-sighted zoning changes to preserve the town’s rural character.Continued...