BOSTON - Sen. Scott Brown is stockpiling cash at a fast clip as he gears up for his re-election campaign next year, collecting $1.7 million in contributions during the first three months of 2011.
That brings the total amount of cash in Brown’s campaign account to about $8.3 million — a sizable hurdle for any potential challenger, including Democrats hoping to take back the seat long held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
The Massachusetts Republican is also planning to spread around some of his fundraising prowess. Brown’s communications director, Gail Gitcho, said the freshman senator is preparing to start raising money to help other candidates.
"Scott Brown, like other senators from Massachusetts and elsewhere, is registering a political action committee, ScottPAC, which will allow him to respond to requests for financial support from other candidates," Gitcho said in a statement.
Brown rocketed to fame in national Republican circles after winning the Senate seat in Massachusetts. He was helped at the time by a surge of fundraising that poured in from across the country.
During final weeks of that campaign, Brown raised a staggering $14.2 million. It turned out to be more money than he could spend, and he ended the race with about $6 million in his account.
He’s continued to add to that hefty campaign total, including the $1.7 million he’s raised in the first quarter of this year.
Massachusetts Democrats have been flummoxed by Brown’s continued popularity among voters as they cast around for possible candidates to challenge him.
On Tuesday, one potential challenger opted out of the race.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said she will not be a candidate for the Democratic nomination. Driscoll, whose name had been floated as a possible candidate, issued a statement saying she believes the seat is winnable for a Democrat but she enjoys her job as mayor and has unfinished business for the city.
Despite Brown’s popularity and his pile of campaign cash, top Massachusetts Democrats say they’re not worried.
State party chairman John Walsh said while Brown has plenty of money, he can’t run from his record.
While Brown has portrayed that record as one of a moderate Republican — even angering some of the conservative tea party activists who supported him last year — Walsh said his record is strategic and includes votes against Massachusetts’ best interests. Walsh said those included votes against Pell Grants for college students, job training programs and community health centers.
"He’s going to be held accountable. In those strategic votes there are positions he’s taken that are disastrous for Massachusetts," Walsh said.
Walsh concedes that Democrats will likely be outspent by Brown, but said the party is refining the organizing effort that helped propel Gov. Deval Patrick to a second term.
Whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is will benefit from that grassroots organizing, he said.
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