Five of six Senate candidates gather at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009. The six candidates are vying for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. From left to right are Republicans state Sen. Scott Brown. Jack E. Robinson and Democrats U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, Alan Khazei and Stephen Pagliuca. The party primaries are Dec. 8 and the special election is Jan. 19, 2010. (AP file photo/Nancy Palmieri)
BOSTON — When the Massachusetts Republicans went hunting for a candidate to oppose Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2000, they thought they’d struck gold in a little known attorney and political newcomer named Jack E. Robinson.
At first, Robinson appeared to be everything Kennedy wasn’t: young, a successful entrepreneur, and black. He drew the support of top GOP leaders, including then-Gov. Paul Cellucci.
Things quickly went downhill from there. Within days of announcing his candidacy, Robinson was denying he’d sexually assaulted a woman who had taken out a restraining order against him.
Robinson — who is again seeking the seat — decided to clear the air with what he called “The Robinson Report,” an 11-page report detailing all the dirt he could dig up on himself.
The report included such topics such as “Liquor,” in which he expressed a preference for scotch, gin and brandy and “Restraining Order,” in which he defends himself against his former girlfriend’s allegations.
He also gave exhaustive detail of a drunken driving arrest in the mid-1980s and a second incident where he said a police officer discovered “some kind of martial arts implement” in his pocket.
“We actually got a slight chuckle out of it, at least until he checked around and found out that it is against the law to have such a thing,” wrote Robinson, who said he’d never seen the device before.
Cellucci quickly pulled his support and the GOP abandoned Robinson.
But Robinson wasn’t as eager to abandon the GOP. He went ahead with the campaign, and was trounced by Kennedy, only narrowly beating Libertarian candidate Carla Howell.
The defeat did little to dampen Robinson’s political bug.
In 2002 he challenged incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, and lost. Four years later, in 2006, he ran against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, and lost again.
In between, he launched an effort to place a question on the 2004 ballot to eliminate the state automobile excise tax. Supporters failed to collect enough signatures.
Robinson’s failures haven’t discouraged him. He said he’s already pumped $250,000 of his own cash into his campaign for the Republican nomination for Kennedy’s seat. The Duxbury attorney and businessman is facing off against state Sen. Scott Brown, a longtime lawmaker from Wrentham.
Robinson, 49, said he decided to jump in the race after listening to the first debate among Democratic candidates.
“I found they had either no solutions or the wrong solutions for the challenges facing the country,” Robinson said.
Robinson is critical of the federal stimulus package, saying it only helped stimulate the government. He said he would instead eliminate the capital gains tax on all investment in 2010.
He’s also opposed to the health care overhaul bills making their way through Congress, saying they cost too much, create too much debt and take decision-making out of the hands of doctors and patients. Instead, the government should allow individuals to buy health care across state line, which he said will lower costs and improve care.
To bring an end to military operations in Afghanistan, Robinson has proposed an immediate cease-fire coupled with peace talks in Paris including the Afghan government, the Taliban, and Pakistan.
“All issues would be on the table, including the possibility of an ‘all-party’ government,” Robinson said in a written statement. “No additional U.S. or NATO troops would be sent to Afghanistan while the talks are pending.”
Robinson is facing tough odds against Brown, who has been endorsed by Cellucci and every Republican state lawmaker. Brown has focused most of his energy on the Democratic candidates.
An ad on Robinson’s Web site tries to portray Brown as ducking debates. However, when a radio debate was set up, it was Robinson who failed to show.
“That wasn’t confirmed with us,” Robinson said later. “We had a conflict. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it.”
Another area where Robinson may have trouble competing with Brown is on military service. Brown has served in the National Guard for 30 years.
In one of his political Internet ads, Robinson notes that he is a “commodore in the U.S. Navy League.”
The Navy League of the United States is a nonprofit group dedicated to educating the public about the importance of sea power. To be a “commodore” an individual must contribute between $2,500 and $5,000. Rising to “Fleet Admiral” requires a $10,000 donation.
Robinson insists he shouldn’t be counted out.
He pointed to his experience in the corporate world, as a former Eastern Airlines executive and CEO of Eastern’s commuter airline division, Eastern Express. He said he also founded a digital cellular company in the Caribbean, Oceanic Digital Communications.
He says the businesses that he’s started or run have created jobs for 1,000 workers _ a level of success he said is as valid as Brown’s years at the Statehouse.
“The last thing we need to do is send Beacon Hill thinking to Capitol Hill,” Robinson said.