By Ethan Forman
---- — Last October, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown drove his iconic pickup to Gloucester for a little campaigning, making visits to Virgilio’s for a sandwich and talking fishing with the Times.
With his announcement yesterday that he will not be a candidate in the upcoming Senate special election to fill outgoing John Kerry’s seat, it’s a stop that’s unlikely to be repeated. Who might show up in the future was a matter of speculation yesterday, but one Republican who appeared to be mulling a run also visited Gloucester in October: Richard Tisei, who was running for Congress at the time.
Brown’s bombshell set off a swirl of speculation about who might mount a serious run at the Republican nomination, with names such as former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey of Beverly, former Gov. Bill Weld, and state Rep. and former judge Dan Winslow’s names floated by local Republicans. A less well-known candidate, former county commissioner Douglas Bennett of Dorchester, put out a statement saying he plans to seek the Republican nomination.
Healey could not be reached for comment.
Tisei, a former state senator who narrowly lost to Salem Democrat John Tierney in the 6th Congressional District last fall, said in a statement yesterday that Brown’s announcement came as a surprise to him, and called Brown’s decision not to run “ a great loss for the commonwealth.”
Tisei did not close the door to a run, saying: “More of the same is not an option.”
“Today, our country faces many challenges,” Tisei’s statement said. “It’s a time when we need to find common ground in order to begin to address the very real problems that threaten our future. Scott’s exit from the race was obviously unexpected. That said, in the coming days I will be talking with family, friends, and supporters to consider the best role that I can play in helping to bring new, alternative leadership to Washington.
Paul Moore, Tisei’s campaign manager in the congressional race, said Tisei would not be commenting further as he considers his options.
Brown was a strong advocate for the fishing industry while in office, making it his top economic and policy priority.
“For Gloucester, Fall River, New Bedford and (communities) in surrounding New England states this is the No. 1 issue when it comes to jobs,” he said last October in Gloucester.
In a short statement yesterday, Brown put an end to speculation about his candidacy, saying that serving in the U.S. Senate “was the greatest privilege of my life,” second only to his marriage and the birth of his two daughters, and that he’d received a lot of encouragement to run.
“Even so, I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time,” he said. “And I know it’s not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me.”
Republican state Rep. Brad Hill of Ipswich, who represents all of Manchester, said he’s “disappointed he is not running. He would have been a formidable candidate. He had knowledge of the Senate ... having served there. If you look currently, you have someone who was appointed to fill Sen. John Kerry’s seat, and you have Elizabeth Warren, who is brand-spanking new.”
Swampscott resident Charlie Baker, who ran a close but unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010, has already said he does not plan to seek the Senate seat. He could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Hill said there is a push on for former Gov. Bill Weld to run. In October, Weld, an attorney, joined a Boston law firm. He, too, would be a formidable candidate, Hill said.
Republican Tanya DeGenova of Marblehead, who served on Brown’s finance committee, praised Brown for his “high integrity” and “high morals.” It was her opinion that Brown did not run out of concern he would be attacked personally. She said Tisei is a moderate who has a good track record of winning elections in the state as a state senator.
Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation of Marblehead said she was disappointed by Brown’s decision, but she could also see the reasoning behind it.
“Two years from now, he may be facing Joe Kennedy, and you can’t beat a Kennedy in this state,” Anderson said. Brown would have also faced a struggle within his own party if he ran.
“I certainly don’t blame Scott for not doing this,” said Anderson , adding that people should remember that it was Brown’s uphill victory against Attorney General Martha Coakley in the winter of 2010 that sparked the notion that impossible things can happen.
Anderson was not sure if Weld was ready to mount a campaign, but said he would make a good choice, able to handle the state Republican party and change its image for the better.
On the Democratic side, Congressman Ed Markey and Congressman Stephen Lynch have announced their intentions to run.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, or firstname.lastname@example.org.