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Candidate profile: Scott Brown tells N.H. voters he’s an independent voice

Last modified: 9/5/2014 12:49:17 AM
Ever since Scott Brown made Rye his home in December, he has been traveling across the state – green pickup truck and all – on a mission to convince New Hampshire voters that he should represent them in the U.S. Senate.

If he wins, Brown would be the third person in U.S. history to represent two states in the Senate. From the start, observers said Brown would have an uphill battle against Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. He came out of the gate swinging at her support for the Affordable Care Act and has tied Shaheen to President Obama at every opportunity, on everything from foreign policy to immigration.

He’s also been putting in the work to win over Republican primary voters and independents, sharing the story of his tough childhood and family ties to New Hampshire and pointing to his previous record in the U.S. Senate as evidence that he’ll be an independent voice for New Hampshire.

Brown faces former state senator Jim Rubens and former U.S. senator Bob Smith in the primary, which is Tuesday.

Personal outreach

Brown’s political history is defined by his victory in a 2010 special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate, a rare feat for a Republican in Massachusetts. Brown’s promise to vote against the Affordable Care Act helped propel him into office and was an early indication of the Republican wave to come.

As a candidate, Brown brings a type of everyman appeal. While running for state office in Massachusetts, he once ran to every single house in his district – more than 15,000 – under the slogan “Scott Brown is running for you.” He has continued that approach in New Hampshire, spending Saturdays knocking on doors, running in local races and marching in parades.

While knocking on doors in Manchester one Saturday in July, Brown chatted with a family about their summer vacation and joked with another about the annoyance of cleaning out gutters. One voter, Oral Foster, jumped out of her car when Brown was walking toward her house.

“I’ve been dying to meet you,” she told him.

Democrats, and some Republicans, have tried hard to paint Brown as a carpetbagger and opportunist, but Foster said she thinks he’s a better fit for New Hampshire than he ever was for Massachusetts. Other voters say the same, pointing to Brown’s record as fiscally conservative but more socially moderate.

“He appeals to me totally as a Republican candidate, and he has for a long time. I was jealous of Massachusetts,” Foster said.

In his first campaign speech in New Hampshire, Brown talked about his roots here. He was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and his grandparents lived here. Brown also shares personal details about how his parents were each married four times and how he often lived in unstable homes. In one of his television ads, Brown’s sister talks about how he protected her as a child.

“I don’t trust politicians, and I had tears in my eyes after his speech,” Rita Nydam of Hampton Falls said after hearing Brown speak alongside Mitt Romney in July.

On the issues

Throughout the campaign, Brown has defined himself as an independent voice and Shaheen as a rubber stamp for Obama on every issue possible.

“His challenge is defeating a very well-known incumbent whose approval numbers very persistently stay at 50 percent or a bit above,” said political science professor Dante Scala. “What he’s going to try to do – he’s doing this at every opportunity – is basically suggest that the Jeanne Shaheen you think you know, she’s nothing but a puppet of Obama.”

On health care, Brown has called for repeal of the law and recently told the Associated Press that states should be responsible for making health care laws that work for them. As a Massachusetts lawmaker, Brown voted for Romney’s health care plan that served as an example for the Affordable Care Act.

In recent weeks, Brown has focused his campaign on immigration and foreign policy in an effort to capitalize on Obama’s perceived weaknesses in both areas.

On immigration, he has hit Shaheen for voting against two border security bills and for supporting the DREAM Act, which would have allowed children brought here illegally by their parents to earn citizenship. Brown voted against the DREAM Act while in Congress and says he probably would have voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill Shaheen (and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte) supported that included border security and a path to citizenship for people already here. On foreign policy, he recently called for Congress to pass a law revoking citizenship of any American fighting alongside terrorists in Iraq and Syria, and he wants to see targeted strikes against terrorist’s supply lines.

These issues seem to be helping Brown gain ground against Shaheen, but he has stumbled in other areas. A super PAC backed by environmentalist Tom Steyer is targeting Brown as one of four U.S. Senate candidates who is bad on climate, and Democrats have repeatedly tied him to oil companies. Brown says he thinks climate change is caused by a combination of man-made and natural causes.

Democrats have also gone after Brown’s personal finances, raising questions about where he earned his money after leaving office in 2013. He made $136,000 as a contributor for Fox News in 2013 and earned money through paid speeches and serving in advisory roles to several companies. One of those companies was exposed by the Boston Globe as a penny stock company with no revenue or products. Brown resigned from the company shortly after the story broke.

From the right, Brown’s opponents say he’s not a strong enough supporter of the Second Amendment, pointing to his opposition to a law that would have allowed people with concealed carry permits in New Hampshire to carry in Massachusetts without a permit from that state. Brown, for his part, did speak at a meeting of Gun Owners of New Hampshire earlier this year to discuss his positions. Not all candidates would have waded into a potentially hostile crowd, but Brown maintains he’s always had a strong record on guns. As a state lawmaker, he voted on an update to the state’s assault weapons ban that gun groups praised.

For Brown, not fitting perfectly into the party mold is the part of the appeal he has tried to create.

“Across this state – wherever you go – you’ll find men and women with a pretty strong independent streak,” he told a crowd while announcing his candidacy back in April. “In government, we expect more of ourselves than to just follow a party boss or a party line. And if there’s one place where we need to see that independent spirit in action, it is the United States Senate.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)


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