Former Romney legal counsel launches Mass. Senate campaign

State Rep. Dan Winslow (R ) announced Thursday he will seek the Republican nomination in the special election to replace former Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — becoming the first GOP candidate to formally enter the race. 

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"As a native of Western Massachusetts, a hardworking middle class family, and as an experienced problem solver, I believe that the next two years will be our last, best opportunity to avoid the tipping point of a runaway deficit and crushing federal debt," Winslow said in a release.

"I have a proven record of respect for Second Amendment constitutional freedoms. My experience as a fiscal conservative and problem solver is experience we need in Washington DC," he added.

Kerry resigned his Senate seat last week when he took over from Hillary Clinton as secretary of State. 

An attorney, Winslow has served in the Massachusetts state legislature since 2011. 

From 2001-2005, he served as then-Gov. Mitt Romney's chief legal counsel, which Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh singled out in an statement released earlier this week, after Winslow indicated his interest in the race.

"Winslow will work just as hard to stop President Obama's agenda in the Senate as he did to deny him a second term and send Mitt Romney to the White House. During his time on Beacon Hill, Republican Winslow has shown that he is more interested in grabbing headlines than getting work done for the people of the Commonwealth," Walsh said.

Walsh charged in his statement that Winslow is a member of "Romney's inner circle," and said he spent last year as one of Romney's "apologists and political attack dogs."

According to the Boston Globe, Winslow has loaned his campaign $100,000 of his own money, and he expects it to ultimately cost between $4 and $6 million. He will meet with Republicans in Washington, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee, next week.

Winslow announced Tuesday that he was exploring a run, making him the first Republican to express interest in the race since former Sen. Scott Brown (R ) declined to run. Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R) indicated on Wednesday he is also considering it, and sources say local businessman Gabriel Gomez may jump in the race as well.

Any prospective candidate has until Feb. 27 to compile the 10,000 signatures needed to get on a primary ballot in Massachusetts.

Democrats have two candidates, Reps. Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch, lined up for the April 30 primary.