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December 29, 2012

Talk of the Times: Passing of Brown's dad stirs local Chamber ties

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The passing of C. Bruce Brown — father of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown — at the age of 75 in Newburyport 10 days ago carries another political tie to a well-known Gloucester and Cape Ann business leader.

Peter Webber, executive vice president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, had served as a state senator representing the Berkshires from 1980 to 1990, well before moving to Cape Ann and serving as a Chamber leader both as the head of its Rockport division, and now at the agency’s headquarters at 33 Commercial St. And when Webber, then a resident of Great Barrington, first sought the Berkshires’ seat, he faced a challenge in the Republican challenger.

That challenger proved to be none other than C. Bruce Brown, who had divorced Scott Brown’s mother when the current U.S. senator was 1, and moved to the Berkshire County town of Dalton. There, he served on some local town boards and dabbled in Republican politics on the regional level before later moving back to Newburyport and serving a second stint on the Newburyport City Council.

Webber, who had served as a legislative aide to longtime, Stockbridge-based state Sen. Jack Fitzpatrick before seeking his seat when Fitzpatrick decided to retire from the Legislature, not only defeated the elder Brown; he also went on to win a close race against Democrat John Barrett III, and was re-elected four times until he decided not to run for re-election in 1990.

As we’ve noted previously, Webber then backed an upset run for the same seat by a young North Adams woman who started her political career working as a legislative State House aide to Webber. Her name? None other than Jane Swift — who, of course, would win the same Berkshire state Senate seat and advance over the following decade to the governor’s seat.

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