BOSTON (AP) — When he was a young attorney and serving on his town's planning board in 1990, Daniel Winslow came home to a shocking find.
"My house was bombed by a bad guy," said Winslow, now a state representative from Norfolk and one of three Republicans running for John Kerry's former U.S. Senate seat. Neither he nor his wife, pregnant with the couple's first child, was home when someone threw a device through a window, but the incident left them shaken.
The 'bad guy' was upset by Winslow's stance on a zoning issue, he said. Police never had enough evidence to charge the person who Winslow believes did it.
Winslow alluded to the incident last week when he became the first Senate candidate to resume campaigning in the aftermath of the deadly April 15 Boston Marathon bombing. While the magnitude of the two bombings obviously don't compare, Winslow did compare his decision not to give up his town post or be intimidated by the attack on his home to a similar need to forge ahead with the business at hand following the attack on Boston.
"We stand together against those who would seek to impose on the majority the twisted perspective of the self-appointed few," he said.
Winslow, 54, doesn't doubt the conventional political wisdom that he's an underdog in next week's primary against former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and Gabriel Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL. But Winslow is also something of a wild card in the race, a cerebral candidate — socially moderate and fiscally conservative — who has followed an unorthodox career path and hasn't shied away from pointed criticism of his own party.
"This is the first race for federal office since the November 2012 memo we got from the American people," Winslow said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, referring to President Barack Obama's victory over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"The majority of voters in America for the next 30 years are women, millennials and new Americans. And the Republican party has to speak to and be relevant to those voters or we will continue to lose," he said.
Republicans must return to the values of Abraham Lincoln, Winslow insisted, and GOP should become an acronym for "grand opportunity party," not grand old party.
Winslow grew up in Amherst, in western Massachusetts, the oldest among five brothers. His father, Joel, started a small business and his mother, Dolores, a first-generation Italian-American, was a registered nurse.
He graduated from Tufts University with a degree in political science and earned his law degree from Boston College in 1983.
After 12 years as a private attorney, he was appointed to a judgeship on the state's district court in 1995 by then-Republican Gov. William Weld. He was a judge for eight years — a job he said he loved and one he could have kept much longer, since judgeships are lifetime appointments in Massachusetts.
But the father of three chose to take off the robes and the security that came with them to join Romney's administration as the governor's chief legal counsel in 2003. He left the post two years later to return to private practice, but was far from finished with government.
In 2010, he was a campaign legal adviser to Republican Scott Brown, who scored an upset victory in a special election to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. Later that year, Winslow won a seat in the state House of Representatives. It seemed a curious political choice at the time, given his resume and the perception of the office being much nearer the bottom of the political ladder than the top.
"If I play my cards right, I'll end up as a selectman," Winslow joked when asked about his career path.
"One of the risks of government at a high level is you start to think you're important," Winslow added, turning more serious. "I think it's important that you take yourself down a few notches and remind yourself that you are there to serve the people."
Winslow was thought to be eyeing a run for statewide office — perhaps governor in 2014 — when he became the first Republican to declare for the Senate after Brown's decision not to run in the special election. Federal campaign finance records show he's poured more than $150,000 of his own money into the campaign so far.
The only Republican in the race who supports abortion rights, Winslow said he prefers a "big tent approach" on social issues.
"My focus is on the many more issues (Republicans) have in common, rather than the few issues that divide us," he said.
He said the party should commit to seeking bipartisan solutions to the federal debt and deficit crisis. Like other Republicans he opposes broad-based tax increases, but has proposed a complex and far-reaching overhaul of the corporate tax code.
It is a Winslow trait — his penchant for seeming to offer a solution for every problem — that some find refreshing and others annoying. "Dan with a plan," he's sometimes called.
"I'm not a wimpy Republican," Winslow said. "If we act like losers, we'll lose."