DANVERS — Beneath two glittering chandeliers, nearly 200 of the Republican party faithful cast ballots this morning in a straw poll for the U.S. Senate race, choosing state Representative Daniel Winslow.
Organizers said the nonbinding poll, which cost $10 a ballot, was a chance to gin up excitement for the coming campaign and connect candidates with activists.
Politicians used it as an opportunity to shake hands and introduce themselves, although all three downplayed their expectations of winning.
Winslow, the winner, slipped out of the Danversport Yacht Club before the votes were tallied, to spend the afternoon campaigning on the North Shore. But before he left, he said he thought the event sent the wrong message.
“They gave us three minutes to speak today; three minutes is longer than I ever wanted to spend in a yacht club,’’ Winslow said. “I am not a tea and crumpets Republican. I am here because there are activists here. I am running a grassroots campaign.’’
Winslow won 79 votes, compared with 55 for Michael Sullivan, the former US attorney who has been widely seen as a frontrunner, and 59 for Gabriel Gomez, a private equity investor from Cohasset.
Sullivan said that after two intensive weeks of gathering signatures, he had not encouraged his supporters to give up another Saturday. He said he was told Friday by the state that he had 22,000 certified signatures.
“I’m grateful that they are here and grateful that they took some time out,’’ Sullivan said. “I wish nobody spent a penny, to be honest with you. I wish people were out doing something important with their families.’’
Gomez acknowledged that his campaign was “suffering from a lack of name recognition,’’ but said he hopes to change that as he tells his personal story, serving as a Navy SEAL and growing up as a first-generation son of immigrant parents, with Spanish as his first language.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m thrilled and still in a little bit of shock we got that many votes,’’ Gomez said.