Scott Brown Wins Vacant US Senate Seat
By: Michael C. Bailey
At an early point in the special election to choose a successor to the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, was considered by many to have the election in the bag.
Early voter surveys placed State Senator Scott P. Brown (R – Wrentham) firmly in the underdog seat, with one September poll stating he would lose the race against AG Coakley by a 25-point margin. Then in the later stages of the race Sen. Brown turned up the heat and closed the gap, and AG Coakley’s lead vanished.
On Tuesday night, voters delivered the final nail in the coffin when Sen. Brown defeated AG Coakley to become US Senator-elect Brown, thus becoming the first Republican to hold a Massachusetts US Senate seat since 1979.
“I go to Washington as the representative of no faction or no special interest, answering only to my conscience and to you the people,” Senator-elect Brown told a crowd of cheering supporters at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel. “I’m ready to go to Washington without delay.”
Senator-elect Brown received 52 percent of the statewide vote to AG Coakley’s 47 percent. Independent candidate Joseph L. Kennedy II came in a distant third with only one percent of the vote. Senator-elect Brown took 11 of the Cape’s 15 towns, including Barnstable and all four Upper Cape towns.
The Associated Press called the race for Senator-elect Brown at 9:20 PM Tuesday, with three-quarters of all precincts reporting in, and AG Coakley conceded immediately.
“Tonight, I wish that we had a different result in this election – as I know you do,” AG Coakley told supporters. “I am heartbroken at the result. But I know that we will get up together tomorrow and continue this fight, even with this result tonight.”
Aggressive grass-roots campaigning gave Senator-elect Brown a much-needed boost in the later weeks of the election, particularly among unenrolled voters, which make up 51 percent of all Massachusetts voters and helped the Senator-elect spread his message beyond his party base.
“That’s what really made the difference,” said Carlton F. Meredith, who handles public relations for the Mashpee Republican Town Committee, “That mood, particularly the mood among unenrolled voters that we can’t go on with business as usual, definitely helped him out…Scott took a whole bunch of unenrolled people, and they were riding the coattails of a tidal wave that is sweeping the nation.”
James M. Cummings, Barnstable County sheriff, agreed that Senator-elect Brown’s victory was a reflection not of party politics, but an expression of frustration by the general public.
“My feeling on the whole thing is, you can push the public so far and can get away with not paying attention to, for example, a tax override,” he said, referring to a 2000 voter-approved rollback in the state income tax to five percent, which never went into full effect; it was frozen in 2002 at 5.3 percent. “Regardless of what party is in power, regardless of what party you belong to, you get to the point where you say enough is enough, and it gets the masses out to vote.”
Sheriff Cummings expected Senator-elect Brown’s win to energize potential Republican candidates for office this year, but also send a clear message to Democrats in power now. “The future message for both political parties is: get in there and do your job,” he said. “Do what the voters want you to do, don’t vote the way your party or your leaderships tell you to.”
Mr. Meredith added that Senator-elect Brown’s mere candidacy was enough to revive the Mashpee Republican Town Committee. Mr. Meredith and Phyllis Sprout, the new committee chairman, called a meeting late last year and they were the only two who attended. “It was very discouraging,” he said.
December, when Senator-elect Brown began to kick his campaign into high gear, saw a major turnaround when 35 people attended a dinner meeting at the Mashpee Senior Center. Last week, the committee held a meeting at which 40 people attended, which Mr. Meredith said was the committee’s best turnout that he can remember.
“We were energized,” he said. “We have been since [Brown] declared…it really brought together folks we haven’t seen in a long time.”
The US Senate seat became vacant last August when US Senator Edward M. Kennedy succumbed to brain cancer, prompting the special election. Governor Deval L. Patrick in September appointed Paul G. Kirk Jr. of Marstons Mills to serve as interim Senator until the special election.
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