New Hampshire Republican activists aren’t surprised that former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has his eye on a possible bid for office in the Granite State.
“You might be interested that Scott Brown will be our Lincoln Day speaker on May 3 and that he’s also speaking at Grafton County’s dinner and at the Cultural Diversity Awareness Dinner all within four weeks,” longtime GOP activist Augusta Petrone of Peterborough, N.H., wrote me on March 28. “I’m thinking we should run him for NH Governor!”
The only thing Mrs. Petrone was wrong about was the office that Brown might seek in neighboring New Hampshire.
Brown — who won a nationally watched special election for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in January 2010 only to be defeated for a full term last fall — said last week in not-so-subtle terms he was considering a challenge to New Hampshire’s Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2014.
“I’m not going to rule out anything right now,” Brown said in Nashua, N.H., according to the Associated Press. The former senator, who made his remarks while addressing the Cultural Diversity dinner commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., characterized New Hampshire as “a second home.” Brown has strong ties to the state: he was born in Kittery and he and his wife are the taxpaying owners of a summer home in Rye.
Brown stunned fellow Republicans in the Bay State earlier this year by deciding not to run in the special election for the Senate seat of Secretary of State John Kerry.
Many on the state GOP committee were particularly upset because they had elected, by a narrow margin, a close ally and top fundraiser of Brown’s as state party chairman. Some did so believing Brown would be making a Senate bid.
But Brown opted against the race, became a commentator on Fox News, and is now, as he said in Nashua, “recharging his batteries.”
U.S. Senate Historian Donald Ritchie discussed with me the scenario of a former senator from one state winning a Senate seat from another. To my surprise, I learned it was not unprecedented.
“I got a list of five pages of people who did this,” Ritchie told me. “In the 19th Century, people moved around and did this quite a bit. Sometimes it was a case of serving in the House from one state and the Senate in another, but there are several cases of senators serving from different states.”
Ritchie cited the example of James Shields, whose statue is in the U.S. Capitol. He was U.S. senator from three different states — Illinois (1849-54), Minnesota (1858-59), and Missouri (1877-78).
“He also served as governor of the Oregon Territory,” Ritchie added with a laugh. “This guy really got around!”
The latest example Ritchie could find of a “twofer” in Congress was Republican James Hamilton Lewis, who was U.S. representative from Washington State from 1897-99 and U.S. senator from Illinois from 1913-19 and then from 1931-39.
In the 20th and 21st Century, attempts to repeat the senator-from-different states scenario crash-landed.
James Buckley, elected on the Conservative Party ticket as U.S. senator from New York in 1970 and defeated in 1976, attempted a comeback in Connecticut, where he was raised and had long owned property. But he lost badly to Democrat Chris Dodd in 1980.
In 1994, former Republican Sen. Bill Brock of Tennessee, who had served as Republican National Chairman and in Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet after being defeated for re-election, tried a comeback in Maryland, where he had lived for many years, but was defeated by Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes.
The difference with Brown’s situation is that many Republicans in Connecticut and Maryland resented the former lawmakers, considering them interlopers, and both had to face grueling nomination battles.
In New Hampshire, the Republican bench is very limited and, with Democrats controlling the governorship, both U.S. House seats, and the state legislature, the GOP was desperate for a first-rate candidate against Shaheen.
Perhaps Brown can take heart from the example of legendary lawmaker Daniel Webster, who after first serving as a congressman from his birth state of New Hampshire, crossed the border and was elected four terms as senator from Massachusetts.
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