Mass. Democrats talk bravely of beat­ing Brown

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

BOS­TON | Mas­sachusetts Democrats in­sist Sen. Scott Brown is vul­ner­a­ble in next year’s elec­tions, ar­gu­ing the sur­prise win­ner last year of the seat long held by Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy has com­piled such an unin­spir­ing vot­ing record that both Democrats and con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans will be gun­ning for him in 2012.

De­spite the brave talk, state Democrats are hav­ing the hard­est time re­cruit­ing a ma­jor can­di­date will­ing to take him on.

The Kennedy clan has taken a pass — Vicki Kennedy, the sen­a­tor’s widow, is not in­ter­ested, and for­mer Rep. Joe Kennedy has sug­gested that he won’t be toss­ing his hat into the ring. The state’s top Demo­crat, Gov. De­val Pa­trick, also ap­pears un­will­ing to en­ter the race.

Thomas M. Menino, the straight-talk­ing, five-term Demo­cratic mayor of Bos­ton, re­cently gave the Bos­ton Her­ald a blunt as­sess­ment of the his party’s chances of oust­ing Mr. Brown: “There’s no­body that can beat him.”

Last week, Alan Khazei, co­founder of a ma­jor lo­cal youth pro­gram, be­came the first Demo­crat to for­mally an­nounce his can­di­dacy.

Other Democrats men­tioned as po­ten­tial con­tenders in­clude Robert Massie, a for­mer can­di­date for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, and Setti War­ren, the first-term mayor of New­ton, an af­flu­ent Bos­ton sub­urb, as well as U.S. Reps. Michael E. Ca­puano and Stephen F. Lynch.

Mr. Brown for now ap­pears to be con­tent to stay above the fray, let­ting the Democrats fight among them­selves.

“There will be plenty of time for pol­i­tics in 2012, but right now Scott Brown is fo­cused on do­ing his job as a sen­a­tor and fight­ing for poli­cies that will grow our econ­omy and put peo­ple back to work,” said Colin Reed, a spokesman for Mr. Brown.

Asked for her views on the Demo­cratic field, Jen­nifer A. Nas­sour, Mas­sachusetts Repub­li­can Par ty chair man, was more can­did, say­ing, “I’ve seen noth­ing.”

“The Demo­cratic field up here in Mas­sachusetts, their bench is not that deep,” Ms. Nas­sour told The Wash­ing­ton Times, adding that Mr. Brown’s strength de­rives from the fact that he’s do­ing ev­ery­thing he said he would be do­ing.

Mr. Brown, a rel­a­tively un­known state leg­is­la­tor when he scored a stun­ning up­set to take the seat, has been “an in­de­pen­dent voice who is mak­ing de­ci­sions on what is best for the peo­ple of the state,” Ms. Nas­sour said. “I think it’s re­ally show­ing as far as it makes it more dif­fi­cult for any­one with any real cred­i­bil­ity to come for­ward to chal­lenge him.”

Still, John E. Walsh, the head of the state Demo­cratic Party, in­sisted in an in­ter­view that he’s “very happy” with the early list of Demo­cratic con­tenders, and said the most im­por­tant part of the equa­tion is Mr. Brown him­self, who has sup­ported poli­cies of the na­tional Repub­li­can Party dur­ing his 14 months in of­fice.

Mr. Walsh pointed in par­tic­u­lar to Se­nate Repub­li­cans’ move last year to link an ex­ten­sion of job­less ben­e­fits to a re­newal of tax cuts ap­proved un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush — in­clud­ing tax cuts for the wealthy. He also cited Mr. Brown’s vote to ad­vance a House GOP bill to cut some $61 bil­lion in fed­eral spend­ing, in­clud­ing money for job train­ing and women’s health care cen­ters. Nei­ther that bill nor a Demo­cratic al­ter­na­tive passed the Se­nate.

“There is a con­sis­tent pat­tern where this guy is vot­ing against the in­ter­est of Mas­sachusetts,” Mr. Walsh said.

Mr. Brown sky­rock­eted to na­tional fame in 2010 spe­cial elec­tion by be­com­ing the first Repub­li­can to trans­late strong sup­port from the tea party move­ment into elec­toral vic­tory, win­ning in a his­tor­i­cally blue state and serv­ing as a har­bin­ger of big GOP gains to come.

Since then, how­ever, he has up­set both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

He’s voted for Pres­i­dent Obama’s sweep­ing fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion law, the START nu­cle­ar­weapons deal with Rus­sia and the end of the mil­i­tary’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­icy on ho­mo­sex­ual in the ranks. He also op­posed re­cent Repub­li­can ef­forts to strip Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing and joined a bi­par­ti­san group of lawmakers in crit­i­ciz­ing Mr. Obama’s plan to cut a pro­gram of­fer­ing sub­si­dized heat­ing oil to low-in­come fam­i­lies.

Jud­son Phillips, the out­spo­ken leader of the Tea Party Nation, ac­cused Mr. Brown of throw­ing fel­low Repub­li­cans “un­der the bus” on spend­ing is­sues and called on con­ser­va­tives to chal­lenge him in the next elec­tion.

But Amy Kre­mer, the head of the Tea Party Ex­press, has said the move­ment shouldn’t try to oust Mr. Brown be­cause in lib­eral-lean­ing Mas­sachusetts he is likely the “lesser of two evils.”

But Mr. Brown’s mod­er­ate track record — and the fail­ure so far of state Democrats to re­cruit a strong chal­lenger — have many in the state think­ing the sen­a­tor will be tough to knock off.

Michael Kryzanek, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at Bridge­wa­ter State Univer­sity in Bridge­wa­ter, Mass., said that “Demo­cratic lead­ers are not go­ing to ad­mit that pub­licly,” but “there is a gen­eral agree­ment that he is clearly on track to be re-elected.”

“What you have is peo­ple who are ei­ther ten­ta­tively an­nounced or lean­ing that way, but don’t have the ca­chet or rep­u­ta­tion, or the good looks or the pickup truck that Scott Brown drove around,” he said, re­fer­ring to Mr. Brown’s widely praised 2010 cam­paign.

“So all of that leads me to be­lieve that he is clearly an in­di­vid­ual who would clearly be dif­fi­cult to beat if the elec­tion were held to­day,” Mr. Kryzanek said.

Mr. Kryzanek also said the strength of Mr. Brown’s sup­port likely in­creased this year af­ter he re­vealed dur­ing an in­ter­view on “60 Min­utes” that he had been mo­lested by a camp coun­selor as a child.

Tar­geted: Sen. Scott Brown

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