, Salem, MA

February 7, 2013

Our view: Republicans lack names for Senate campaign

The Salem News

---- — Former Sen. Scott Brown shocked and disappointed many here in Massachusetts with his decision not to seek the seat vacated by Sen. John Kerry following the latter’s confirmation as secretary of state.

But in the end, the decision isn’t difficult to understand.

Brown was elected to the Senate in February 2010 to fill out the term of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Just more than two years later, the Republican was engaged in a brutal and expensive re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Despite Brown’s moderate, bipartisan record, he was painted as a dangerous Republican extremist by the Democratic establishment. Warren was the victor in November and in January, Brown left the Senate.

Now, just a month later, the other Senate seat from Massachusetts has opened. Again, it is for a partial term. Whoever wins the special election June 25 will almost immediately have to begin a re-election campaign for November 2014.

So it is understandable that Brown would decline to endure three Senate elections in three years. Who wants that hassle? Why would he want to hear, again and again, that he is a foot soldier in the “war on women”? Why would he want to be accused yet again of being a tool of Big Oil and Wall Street special interests? Surely his opponents would once again haul out the 30-year-old Cosmopolitan magazine nude centerfold that helped a 22-year-old Brown pay for law school. It’s all nonsense. But it plays well in Blue Massachusetts.

Brown’s decision exposes the price we pay for one-party rule in Massachusetts. It would be nice to have some diversity of political philosophy in our congressional delegation. It might be helpful to have at least one Republican among our nine representatives and two senators. It would help give the state a prominent voice in Washington whichever party is in power nationally.

But the Republican bench in Massachusetts is not strong. When Brown announced his decision, the state’s Republicans were left wondering “what now?”

It says little for the party’s chances in Massachusetts that the first two prospects to leap to mind were former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey — who last lost an election for governor in 2006 to Deval Patrick and could not win a state representative race in Beverly — and former Gov. William Weld — who was last seen in these parts in 2000 carrying his suitcases across the border to New York after his failed 1997 nomination as ambassador to Mexico.

Both Healey and Weld have declared their lack of interest in the Senate seat. Republican state Rep. Dan Winslow of Norfolk and state Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester have both said they are interested in running, but their candidacies would likely be aimed at raising their profiles for another race in 2014 or beyond. Then there’s the daunting fact that a potential Republican candidate needs to acquire 10,000 signatures by the end of February.

As Ted Kennedy and John Kerry both ably demonstrated, Senate seats don’t open up all that often. It is extraordinarily difficult to pry a senator out of office with all the advantages incumbency offers.

Massachusetts Republicans need to start from scratch. Try winning a few more state representative elections and getting a few state senators elected. Then maybe try for a congressional seat — former state Sen. Richard Tisei came close to unseating Democrat John Tierney in the Sixth Congressional District race just a few months ago. Then, the next time a U.S. Senate seat opens, the people of Massachusetts might find a recognizable Republican name on the ballot.

Wouldn’t that be a nice change?