Former Sen. Brown Stirs GOP With Move to N.H.

Ex-Mass. politician gets mixed reaction

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Kelly Ayotte gets help from Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in Concord, N.H., Friday, Oct. 29,2010.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Kelly Ayotte gets help from Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in Concord, N.H., Friday, Oct. 29,2010.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Nashua — Scott Brown received a mixed reaction from Republicans in Nashua last night, bringing to life the speculation surrounding his possible run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire.

Hours after announcing his move to Rye, the former Massachusetts senator spoke at the state Republican Party’s holiday fundraiser. Across the street, a crowd of gun rights activists gathered to protest Brown’s visit and chant a clear message: “Go home, Brown.”

Brown has neither confirmed nor denied his intentions to seek Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s seat.

Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the state Republican committee, said last night that there is still plenty of time for candidates to enter the race before the September primary.

“Anyone who gets into a campaign here in New Hampshire has to be willing to answer tough questions from activists on all of the issues,” she said.

If Brown does join the Senate race, he would face a primary against at least three other candidates. Former two-term U.S. senator Bob Smith has announced he will seek the Republican nomination, as have former state senator Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman.

Republican state Rep. Al Baldasaro, who joined the gun rights rally last night, said he is now considering his own run for the Senate seat.

“I like Scott Brown. He’s a nice guy and he’s trying to do what he can to help the Republican Party,” Baldasaro said. “But he’s also selling (his) books. He’s eating up all this press you’re giving him to sell books.”

Other Republicans have spoken favorably of Brown.

“I’ve spoken with Scott a number of times in the last couple months, and he would be a formidable candidate,” said Republican National Committee member Steve Duprey earlier this week.

To most, Brown’s intentions remain a mystery.

“I can tell you I have no idea,” said Tom Rath, a Republican strategist and Concord lawyer. “I’ve not heard from anybody, either, or anybody connected with him, so I have no idea how much of this is real and how much of this is speculation.”

Brown released a statement Thursday afternoon confirming he is leaving Massachusetts to live full-time at his home in Rye.

He called the move a personal choice and said he has “nothing to announce” about his political plans.

“I’m not toying with them,” Brown told a group of reporters as he exited the back door of Nashua’s Hunt Memorial Building last night. “There are three good candidates running right now. ... I have to establish residency, which I’ll be doing this week, and spend time over the holidays with the family.”

Brown’s indecision has led to widespread speculation and national media attention. Reporters gathered in downtown Nashua Thursday night added to a rare scene where Democratic protesters mingled with the Republicans opposing Brown.

The more than 100 gun rights activists were the most visible, wearing orange and chanting phrases such as “Down with Brown.” The group held a raffle for a firearm and ammunition, and it expressed concern over Brown’s record of voting for gun control legislation.

Republican state Rep. JR Hoell, who helped organize that rally, said he thinks Brown is wrong for New Hampshire.

“I want a New Hampshire candidate,” he said. “I’ve had requests (for endorsements) from all three current candidates right now, and I want to see a level playing field. And I think the N.H. GOP bringing in an antigun carpetbagger is wrong.”

Brown acknowledged to reporters last night that he has supported gun control legislation in the past.

“When and if I’m a candidate, I’ll be happy to address that and every other issue,” he said. “But until then, you know, I have a record, and it’s there to criticize or praise, whatever.”

Duprey said he does not think New Hampshire voters would dismiss Brown as a carpetbagger, noting that he has long owned a home in Rye.

Brown’s success, Rath said, would depend on the type of campaign he ran.

“It’s a grassroots state,” he said. “You have to go out and build relationships and work hard and earn (voters’) support. I don’t know if they would find him disqualified because he lived someplace else, or even represented someplace else.”

The crowd of more than 100 Republicans at last night’s fundraiser was polite to Brown, said state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, who is running for the congressional seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

“He basically talked about unity is important, and we all have a common goal,” Garcia said.