By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A Republican state representative said on Tuesday he was exploring whether to run for the open Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat, the first from his party to show interest in the race since former Senator Scott Brown opted out.
Dan Winslow, a 54-year-old former state court justice who has been in the statehouse since 2011, said on his Website he will set up an exploratory committee on a bid for the seat, opened by John Kerry's appointment as secretary of state.
"Today I'm taking the necessary steps to form an exploratory committee to test the waters for the U.S. Senate," said Winslow, who represents a district including the town of Norfolk, about 30 miles southwest of Boston. "We need to fix a broken Washington where progress is being hampered by partisan gridlock."
No major Republican has declared a run in the predominantly Democratic state, dimming Republicans' hopes of adding to their 45 seats in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have a majority.
Two well-known Democrats, U.S. Representatives Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch, have launched their bids, setting the stage for an April 30 party primary.
Brown, who was defeated by Democrat Elizabeth Warren in November, said last week he would not run.
Several other well-known Republicans, including former Governor William Weld and Tagg Romney, the son of former Massachusetts Governor and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have also ruled out runs.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, on January 30 named his former chief of staff, William Cowan, to hold Kerry's Senate seat until a successor is picked.
Cowan told reporters he viewed the appointment as temporary and had no plans to run in the special election.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Aaron Pressman; Editing by Vicki Allen)