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Experts React to Brown’s Decision to Bow Out of Special Election

Saturday, February 02, 2013


Despite positive polls, former US Senator Scott Brown has decided to back out of the special election that will be held June 25th. His decision leaves many things up in the air, including the GOP pick for the election and what Brown’s future political career will look like.

Mark Miller, Political Science professor at Clark University says that the state’s GOP doesn’t have a good way out of this: “The Republicans are likely to put up a sacrificial lamb just so they have someone on the ballot.”

Brown’s announcement came as a surprise to many and has many wondering which candidates will duke it out for John Kerry’s empty seat.

MassGOP released a statement following Brown’s announcement saying that they remain “optimistic” to unify against the Democratic “mediocre congressman.”

“We shocked the world in 2010, and united, we can do it again.”

Soured on Scott Brown?

Prior to his announcement on Friday, political pundits were looking somewhat favorably on Brown’s chances. Early polls showed he had a slight lead on potential opponents, but political experts say that Brown’s followers and the “relatively weak” Mass GOP don’t see eye to eye.

The Massachusetts Republican Party also recently nominated Brown’s former aide, Kristen Hughes as chairman, which also seemed like a point in Brown’s favor. However, this win was only marginal, and was briefly thought to be a tie.

Hughes won the title against Rick Green of Pepperell.

“Massachusetts has a relatively weak GOP organization and it also has a strong Tea Party movement that has soured a bit on Brown,” said Clark University professor of Political Science, Robert Boatright. “Hughes’ leading opponent was not overly critical of Brown, but appeared to be campaigning hard for the position.”

Boatright said that this close of a call signified, “what we already knew from the 2012 election – that he has his own following but doesn’t really have an organization loyal to him.”

Darrell West of the Brookings Institute said, “It is a surprise that Scott Brown is not running for Senate. That creates a big problem for Republicans because he was the most prominent possibility. The GOP bench is thin after him.”

A Run for Governor

In a statement following his decision to not run in the special election, Brown said that his decision was partially based on the partisanship of Congress.

“…I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time,” he said. “And I know it’s not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me.”

Brown’s statement left a potential run for governor in 2014 a possibility – one that Clark professor of Political Science, Srini Sitaraman sees likely.

“This surely suggests that Scott Brown is going to make a run for the Governor’s office in 2014,” he said.

Frequent GoLocal commentator, political expert from The Cook Political Report, Jennifer Duffy, agreed with her Tweet following his announcement: “Brown's decision deprives us of a great Senate race, but may give us a great Governor's race instead.”

GOP Replacements

Perhaps the biggest and most timely question from Brown’s decision is which Republican candidate will take his place.

“The GOP doesn’t have many good options,” said Professor Boatright. “I think the ideal scenario for them at this point is to have a competitive primary, so that they get media coverage and draw attention away from the Dems, and to have someone who would fit Brown’s profile. Someone like Sean Bielat might make things interesting.”

Bielat already has a history in Mass politics, with two failed campaigns – one against Barney Frank in 2010, and one against Joseph Kennedy III in 2012 for the state’s fourth congressional district.

Miller agreed, saying, “There are very few Republicans in the state with the ability to raise enough money quickly enough to make a run for the Senate.”

As for those who may stand a chance, Sitaraman also considers Bielat a strong candidate, as well as William Weld, and Kerry Healy.

A Better Chance for Dems

Sitaraman said that this news presents a better shot for Democrats hoping to win back Kerry’s seat.

“I think the Democrats are breathing a huge sigh of relief,” he said. “Now, this does not meaning that Markey is waltzing into the Senate. Although he would probably have a leg-up.”

Reports came out in the days leading up to Brown’s decision that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was pushing Brown to run. GoLocalWorcester received no comments from the group.

Following Brown's announcement, the NRSC said, “This was no doubt a tough personal decision for Senator Brown and his family, who understandably need to recharge after several long, hard-fought campaigns. Now that he has made a decision, it’s time to move forward. The Republican conference remains excited about the prospect of the Massachusetts special election, and we have the organization, energy and resources to win."

“As the Democratic primary between Reps. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch turns uglier and nastier each day, the Massachusetts special election provides a real pick-up opportunity for Republicans, and we intend on defeating whichever career politician limps through,” said Rob Collins, NRSC Executive Director

Strong Words from State Group

MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes had some strong words following Brown’s announcement, fending off fears that the party has some big shoes to fill if it hopes to win the special election.

“The fact is the Democratic Party will field a mediocre congressman with a highly partisan record who has been part of the Washington gridlock,” Hughes said. “A Republican Senator from Massachusetts will offer the bipartisan leadership to solve our nation's problems.”

Hughes said that the group remains “optimistic… because of the strength, character and accomplishments of the many potential candidates who are today considering their political futures.” 


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