Brown to make US Senate bid

Likely front-runner for GOP vows lower taxes

Scott Brown announced his candidacy for the US Senate seat held by Edward M. Kennedy. His daughter Ayla applauded. Scott Brown announced his candidacy for the US Senate seat held by Edward M. Kennedy. His daughter Ayla applauded. (John Tlumacki/ Globe Staff)
By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / September 13, 2009

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Casting himself as a fiscal conservative and Washington outsider, Republican State Senator Scott Brown announced his candidacy for the US Senate yesterday, embarking on an uphill race for the seat held by Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century.

In a news conference at a downtown Boston hotel, Brown pledged to run a grass-roots campaign focused on lowering taxes and reducing the size of government, and denounced Democratic policies as harmful to economic recovery.

“Here in Massachusetts, as the unemployment rate rises toward double digits, their response has been to raise taxes of every kind and make it harder for small businesses to survive,’’ Brown said, adding that he had never voted to raise taxes in his 11 years as a Beacon Hill lawmaker. “I’ve stated many times that higher taxes will weaken the economy and put even more people out of work. It’s just common sense to me.’’

Flanked by flag-holding supporters, including several family members, Brown, 50, said he would fight for lower government spending and deficit reduction. He panned the federal stimulus bill as counterproductive and called the exploding national debt as “just plain wrong.’’

He described himself as an independent thinker unbeholden to special interests and promised to base decisions on their impact on ordinary people.

“Already, my opponents have started pandering to the special interests, promising to support their pet projects,’’ Brown said. “That’s not the way I operate. Because I don’t owe anybody any thing, I’m free to tell the truth and fight for what’s right for the people of Massachusetts.’’

A day earlier, former White House chief of staff Andrew Card decided not to seek the seat, citing family obligations, and threw his support behind Brown, a Wrentham lawyer and lieutenant colonel in the National Guard.

Brown, who is serving his third term in the state Senate, had previously said he would not run against Card, a key figure in the administration of President George W. Bush.

With Canton selectman Bob Burr the only declared Republican candidate, Brown becomes the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. Former US attorney Michael Sullivan has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, has launched her campaign, and US representatives Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston and Michael E. Capuano of Somerville have said they plan to run. Another House member, Salem Democrat John F. Tierney, is considering a run as well.

Last week, Joseph P. Kennedy II, a former congressman, said he would not seek the seat left vacant by the death of his uncle. On Friday, US Representative Edward J. Markey said he would not enter the race because his seniority in the House would better serve the state.

Massachusetts has not elected a Republican to the US Senate for nearly 40 years, and Brown acknowledged his underdog status. Yet he also said Massachusetts could use a Republican representative in Washington to offset an all-Democrat delegation that “votes in lockstep,’’ and took aim at the idea that the seat left vacant by Kennedy’s death must be filled by a fellow Democrat.

“This Senate seat doesn’t belong to any one person or political party,’’ he said. “It belongs to you, the people, and the people deserve a US senator who will always put your interests first.’’

Frank Talty, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, said Brown will make a “compelling argument that one-party government isn’t wise,’’ and challenge the Democrats’ economic record.

“It’s apparent what he is going to do is cast the first year of Democratic control in Washington as a failure,’’ Talty said. “I think that will have traction with voters, who aren’t sure whom to blame. He’ll say that this is their chance to get someone in Washington who will watch their dollar.’’

Jody Dow, the Republic National Committee chairwoman for Massachusetts, said Brown is a strong candidate whom party leaders have long eyed as a prospect for statewide office.

Brown will face long odds in a race that could determine the success of the agenda of the entire Democratic party, Dow said. It is important for the Republican Party to mount a credible challenge in a race that will be watched nationally, she said.

“Hopefully [Brown] can raise the money he needs,’’ she said. “He’s going to have to get statewide recognition as quickly as possible.’’

Peter Schworm can be reached at