Brown gets a hero’s welcome
For supporters, he’s a symbol of renewed hope
WORCESTER — Scott Brown has been a US senator for 73 days, but he was greeted by the Republican faithful gathered here yesterday as if he were the prophet who would lead them to the promised land — or at least a return to political relevance on Democratic-dominated Beacon Hill.
As a high-voltage figure on the national stage, Brown made it clear in his keynote speech to the party’s state convention that he is willing to expend his political capital to revitalize the fortunes of Republicans in the Bay State and boost the gubernatorial candidacy of Charles D. Baker.
Brown said electing Baker and Republican legislative candidates is the only way to end “the one-party political monopoly in Massachusetts,’’ blaming the Democratic “machine’’ for a “sad legacy’’ of “higher and higher taxes, rising unemployment, chronic budget deficits, corruption, cronyism, and patronage.’’
As his appearance yesterday showed, Brown appears comfortable wearing the mantle of titular party leader in the state as he occupies a unique niche in the nation’s political consciousness: a self-described independent Republican from a liberal Democratic state, and a potential swing vote on some issues.
More than 3,000 delegates roared at references to his truck, barn coat, and “the people’s seat’’ — the campaign motifs of his electrifying victory in January. After his address, Brown, accompanied by Baker, waded onto the DCU Center convention floor to press the flesh, stopping often to pose for pictures, sign autographs, and exchange pleasantries with delegates. Many thanked him or reached out to touch the sleeve of his suit coat.
Olivia O’Toole of Worcester reminded Brown that he had held her newborn daughter, Katie, at Brown’s “thank-you tour’’ stop in Worcester after the election. “That was a million years ago,’’ Brown said with a smile.
Yoke Wong, a delegate from Newton, had Brown sign a photo of himself with Brown at a banquet in Boston’s Chinatown five years ago. “He was doing karaoke,’’ Wong said. “He hadn’t reached superstar status yet.’’
After Brown worked the delegates in a loge section, Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr. surveyed the enthusiastic delegates and said: “They see a winner, and they’re excited about it. The last time we elected a Republican senator was 1972; it was Ed Brooke, and my mother was involved.’’
Brown left the DCU Center shortly after his speech.
“I’ve seen my family five hours in the last two weeks, so I want to spend some time with them,’’ he said in an interview before his remarks. He planned a return to Washington on an afternoon flight, so he could prepare for an appearance this morning on CBS’s “Face the Nation,’’ his first appearance on a Sunday talk show since his swearing-in.
In hyperpartisan Washington, he has suffered minor scuffs when he has broken with party leadership on procedural votes, prompting some complaints from GOP activists who consider straying from the party line an act of political heresy. But because of his status as both a celebrity and a pivotal vote, party leadership has granted him a fairly wide berth.
“There has never been any question where I was standing,’’ Brown said. “I said I was going to be an independent thinker and voter and it’s no secret.’’
As the only Republican in the state’s 12-member congressional delegation, Brown said he has developed “a very positive relationship’’ with John F. Kerry, the state’s senior senator. Brown and Kerry have socialized with their wives “a couple of times,’’ Brown said.
“As soon as [Kerry’s] hip gets better, we’re going to do some bike-riding together,’’ he said. Both senators are avid long-distance cyclists.
Brown strives to maintain his equilibrium while navigating the maelstrom of celebrity. He said he has received thousands of requests for media interviews and hundreds of invitations from Republican candidates across the country seeking his help and star power.
In vowing to aid Republican candidates back home, Brown made a special request to the conventioneers to help Richard J. Ross, the Republican state representative from Brown’s hometown of Wrentham, in the May 11 special election to fill his vacant state Senate seat.
Asked whether he would campaign against any of the incumbent Democrats in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Brown would only say he will focus on helping Republican state Representative Jeffrey D. Perry of Sandwich in his run for the 10th District seat being vacated by William D. Delahunt, a seven-term Democrat.
Of the other requests for campaign help and interviews, he said: “[I] just try to do my job first, and if we have time, we try to fit them in.’’