, Newburyport, MA

February 7, 2013

Brown's decision leaves state with political void

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Former Sen. Scott Brown shocked and disappointed many here in Massachusetts with his decision not to seek the seat vacated by Sen. John Kerry following the latter’s confirmation as secretary of state.

But in the end, the decision isn’t difficult to understand.

Brown was elected to the Senate in February 2010 to fill out the term of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Just more than two years later, the Republican Brown was engaged in a brutal — and expensive — re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Despite Brown’s moderate, bipartisan record, he was painted as a dangerous Republican extremist by the Democratic establishment.

Warren was the victor in November and in January, Brown left the Senate.

Now, just a month later, the other Senate seat from Massachusetts has opened. Again, it is for a partial term. Whoever wins the special election June 25 will almost immediately have to begin a re-election campaign for November 2014.

So it is understandable that Brown would decline to endure three Senate elections in two years. Who wants that hassle? Why would he want to hear, again and again, that he is a foot soldier in the “war on women”? Surely his opponents would once again haul out the 30-year-old Cosmopolitan magazine nude centerfold that helped a 22-year-old Brown pay for law school. It’s all nonsense.

Brown’s decision exposes the price we pay when a political race is dominated by a war of hyperbolic advertisements on TV. It’s a world in which voters are shown candidates in the worst possible light, and they end up not knowing what to believe — and more often than not, holding their noses as they vote.

Brown’s bipartisan approach to politics was counter to Washington’s present state of mind, but it was in keeping with the kind of compromise-focused politics that the nation needs. It also might be helpful to have at least one Republican among our nine representatives and two senators. It would help give the state a voice in Washington whichever party is in power nationally.

With Brown out of the running, it’s clear that the Republican bench in Massachusetts is not strong, and that there are very few people willing to face the barrage of political battle that the Senate race will require. When Brown announced his decision, the state’s Republicans were left wondering “what now?”

It says little for the party’s chances in Massachusetts that the first two prospects to leap to mind were former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey — who last lost an election for governor in 2006 to Deval Patrick — and former Gov. William Weld — who was last seen in these parts in 2000 carrying his suitcases across the border to New York after he quit the governor’s seat out of boredom and failed in his 1997 nomination as ambassador to Mexico.

Both Healey and Weld have declared their lack of interest in the Senate seat. So, with a potential Republican candidate needing to acquire 10,000 signatures by the end of February, the state may as well just hold a Democratic primary and be done with it.

As Ted Kennedy and John Kerry both ably demonstrated, Senate seats don’t open up all that often. It is extraordinarily difficult to shoehorn a senator out of office with all the advantages incumbency offers.