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Former Sen. Scott Brown May Be Eyeing Quick Return To Washington

Jan 6, 2013
Originally published on January 6, 2013 7:08 pm

Among the new members of Congress sworn in this week was Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And within days, the Massachusetts Democrat could become her state's senior senator.

That's because 28-year incumbent Sen. John Kerry is expected to be confirmed soon as secretary of state.

And replacing him later this year after a special election could be the very senator whom Warren unseated: Republican Scott Brown. For Brown, it would be an unusual second chance.

"Do-overs in the space of a couple of months are rare," said Jeff Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University, which is also where Brown attended college.

Berry says it's clear that Brown is well aware of his unique opportunity.

Just two months ago, Brown lost a contentious race to Warren, the most expensive Senate race in American history. But Brown was extremely gracious and almost shrugged off the loss as a bump in the road.

"There are no obstacles you can't overcome, and defeat is only temporary," Brown said during his election night concession speech.

Brown repeated that refrain in his farewell speech from the Senate floor last month. Fare-thee-well? Not really. The speech sounded more like: Goodbye-for-now.

"You know, depending on what happens and where we go — all of us — we may obviously meet again," Brown said.

Those senators in the audience do have some say over whether they meet again. If they confirm Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state as expected, Kerry's vacant Senate seat would be filled in a special election, likely to happen this summer.

Berry says Brown still has an organization and campaign money left over from the recent campaign, and is an automatic front-runner among Massachusetts Republicans, one who likely won't have to worry about winning a party primary.

"The Republican Party in Massachusetts has no one else. Literally no one else that can run a competitive race against whoever the Democrats nominate. So it's Scott Brown or bust," Berry said.

Massachusetts Democrats want to make it a bust. They were caught by surprise three years ago when Brown came from nowhere to win the seat of the late Ted Kennedy in a special election. State party Chairman John Walsh says Democrats won't be embarrassed again.

"We spent about a year and a half trying to make sure Scott Brown didn't continue in the Senate. Nobody's interested in sending him down there to negate Elizabeth Warren's votes right now," said Walsh. "We'll be ready."

The first Democrat to say he's running is veteran Rep. Ed Markey, and key Massachusetts Democrats, including Kerry, are lining up behind him. They want to avoid a bruising primary, when the winner would have only six weeks after that to wage a general election campaign.

But Democratic Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch are also seriously considering running. Rep. Jim McGovern is not, but says an open Senate seat is a rare opportunity for ambitious Democrats, and he expects Markey won't be alone.

"Look, in a perfect world, it'd be nice if there was one candidate. But the notion that someone's going to clear the field — I'm not sure that's realistic," McGovern said.

While the Democratic field takes shape, Brown can just sit back and watch how things play out. He hasn't said whether he's running, but Berry says Brown would have to have a compelling reason not to take another crack.

"Scott Brown's going to have as much money as he needs," Berry said. "This is an opportunity for the national Republican Party to bloody the nose of Barack Obama. And they're not going to let this opportunity pass by. And it's all the sweeter if it comes from Massachusetts, which is a very, very blue state."

If Brown does run, it would be his third Senate campaign within four years.

Copyright 2014 WBUR. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The election is two months behind us, the new Congress has just begun, but already some Americans are considering yet another vote. In this case, we're talking about a possible vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has been nominated to serve as U.S. secretary of state. If he's confirmed, that would create a chance for a political comeback for the former senator from Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown. Brown was just unseated in November's election. From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports on Brown's unusual second chance.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: You know how grade school kids, when they lose a game, call for a do-over? Well, that's basically what Scott Brown has the chance to do in Massachusetts politics.

JEFF BERRY: Do-overs in the space of a couple of months are rare.

NICKISCH: Jeff Berry is a political scientist at Tufts University. That's where Scott Brown went to college. Berry says it's clear that Brown is well aware of his unique opportunity.

SCOTT BROWN FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATOR, MASSACHUSETTS: And I accept the decision of the voters.

NICKISCH: Just listen back to Scott Brown's concession speech from election night. He had just lost a contentious race against Elizabeth Warren, the most expensive Senate race in American history. But Brown was extremely gracious and almost shrugged off the loss as a bump in the road.

MASSACHUSETTS: There are no obstacles you can't overcome, and defeat is only temporary.

NICKISCH: Brown repeated that refrain in his farewell speech from the Senate floor last month. Fare-the-well? Not really. The speech sounded more like: Goodbye-for-now.

MASSACHUSETTS: You know, depending on what happens and where we go - all of us - we may obviously meet again.

NICKISCH: Those senators in the audience do have some say over whether they meet again. If they confirm John Kerry to become secretary of state, as expected, his vacant Senate seat would be filled in a special election, likely this summer. Political analyst Jeff Berry says Scott Brown just finished a campaign. He still has an organization and campaign money left over. Berry says Brown is the automatic frontrunner, who won't have to worry about winning a party primary.

BERRY: The Republican Party in Massachusetts has no one else, literally no one else, that can run a competitive race against whoever the Democrats nominate. So, it's Scott Brown or bust.

NICKISCH: Massachusetts Democrats want to make it a bust. They were caught by surprise three years ago when Scott Brown came from nowhere to win Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. State party chairman John Walsh says Democrats won't be embarrassed again.

JOHN WALSH: We spent about a year and a half trying to make sure Scott Brown didn't continue in the Senate. Nobody's interested in sending him down there to negate Elizabeth Warren's votes right now. We'll be ready.

NICKISCH: The first Democrat to say he's running is Congressman Ed Markey. And key Massachusetts Democrats, including Senator John Kerry, are lining up behind him. They want to avoid a bruising primary, when the winner would have only six weeks after that to wage a general election campaign. But U.S. Representatives Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch are also seriously considering running. Congressman Jim McGovern is not, but says an open Senate seat is a rare opportunity for ambitious Democrats, and he expects Ed Markey won't be alone.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM MCGOVERN: Look, I mean, in a perfect world, it'd be nice if there was one candidate. But the notion that someone's going to clear the field, I'm not sure that's realistic.

NICKISCH: While the Democratic field takes shape, Republican Scott Brown can just sit back and watch how things play out. He hasn't said whether he's running. Tufts political scientist Jeff Berry says Brown would have to have a compelling reason not to take another crack with this rare chance at a do-over.

BERRY: Scott Brown is going to have as much money as he needs. This is an opportunity for the national Republican Party to bloody the nose of Barack Obama. And they're not going to let this opportunity to pass by. And it's all the sweeter if it comes from Massachusetts, which is a very, very blue state.

NICKISCH: If Scott Brown does run, it would be his third Senate campaign within four years. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch, in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.