By Mark E. Vogler
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Local Republicans got a chance to mingle last night with all the three candidates who are battling to represent their party in the June 25 general election to fill former U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s vacant seat.
But the forum hosted by the North Andover Republican Town Committee at the China Blossom was more of party unity rally than a conventional candidate’s debate. There were no questions from the audience and there wasn’t any sparring between the opponents — Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, state Rep. Daniel Winslow and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez
“I’m glad there wasn’t,” said C.J. Gangi, chairman of the North Andover Republican Town Committee.
“It was classy. They all acted like gentlemen,” he said
Two of the three candidates even praised their opponents as worthy representatives of the Republican Party.
“We got three great candidates in the primary and I will say that anyone of those three would beat Ed Markey or Stephen Lynch and also do a better job,” Gomez said, referring to the two Democratic congressmen on the ballot in the April 30 primary.
A straw poll taken of the 150 people attending last night’s forum showed that Sullivan, the former U.S. Attorney in Boston, was the most popular.
Of the 98 people casting ballots, 58 percent said they supported Sullivan. Gomez drew 23 percent of the vote and Winslow — who showed up more than hour late to the forum — drew 19 percent.
Gomez, a first generation American, told the crowd he was running for Congress out of a sense of duty and service to his country, after nine years in the military.
“I’d rather get involved and try — even if I fail — rather than stay on the sidelines and complain,” Gomez said.
“We can make this a better place than the path we’re on right now,” he said.
Sullivan cited the deficit as a major issue that needs to be addressed if he gets elected to Congress.
“$16 trillion, and no plan to pay it back,” Sullivan told the crowd.
Sullivan noted a major highlight of his career was serving as U.S. Attorney during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I had the privilege of going into the U.S. Attorney’s Office moments later to try to face down a horrible enemy, an enemy that wanted to destroy us both from within and outside,” Sullivan said.
But as the true highlight of his career, he cited a patriotic moment.
“I was flying into Baghdad International Airport with a young solider going for his third tour of duty. You feel so patriotic to think that the young people are just stepping up to protect our country.” Sullivan said.
“It’s sad to think that people are coming from the front lines to the unemployment lines,” he said.
During his talk, Winslow focused on the economy. He criticized the White House for closing down public tours of “the people’s” house during the recent budget cuts, instead of eliminating questionable spending by the federal government. He read off a list of extravagant spending by the Obama administration.
“$235,000 to build a robotic squirrel. Talk about nuts!” he said.
“Who the heck is running the country. I think we ought to be running the country,” he said.
Here other results of the straw poll.
North Andover Selectman
Rosemary Smedile 100%
North Andover School Committee
Mark Mezzina 72%
Zora Warren 28%
2014 Republican Candidate for Governor
Charlie Baker 41%
Scott Brown 37%
Bruce Tarr 22%
Rate President Obama’s Job Performance
Extremely Unfavorable 75%
Extremely Favorable 2%
Greatest Deceased Republican
Ronald Reagan 59%
Abraham Lincoln 29%
Calvin Coolidge 7%
Teddy Roosevelt 4%
Barry Goldwater 1%
Greatest Living Republican
George H.W. Bush 29%
Rand Paul 28%
George W. Bush 27%
Marco Rubio 6%
Newt Gingrich 5%