QUINCY, Mass. — With the Dec. 8 primary election looming, the U.S. Senate candidates will be vying for the public’s attention this holiday week.
The four Democrats seeking the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat will share a stage at a televised candidate forum Monday night. Monday morning, the two Republicans face off in a debate organized by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Trained as a lawyer, state Sen. Scott Brown started his political career as an assessor in his home town of Wrentham. In 1998, he was elected to the House of Representatives, then nine years later to the state Senate.
Now he’s running to become the first Republican to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate since Ed Brooke, who served from 1967 to 1979. WBUR’s Bob Oakes caught up with Brown last week at a campaign stop in Quincy.
Bob Oakes: Sen. Brown, thank you very much for joining us today. I appreciate the time.
Scott Brown: I’m glad to be here and I appreciate you taking the time to meet me kind of halfway.
Which is all a candidate can ask of any voter (laughs).
Very nice. Very nice. I like that.
How serious are you about this campaign? You’re not anywhere near as active on the campaign trail as the Democrats are and you’re not raising anywhere near the money that the two Democratic front-runners are.
I can assure you that I’m up at 4:30 and in bed at midnight, about four and a half hours of sleep, and I’m traveling throughout the state and a lot of what I’m doing isn’t for public spectacle, it’s to get votes.
And the one thing that’s constant is that people are angry, they’re frustrated and they don’t want somebody down there who’s going to be in lockstep with the people that are down there right now. In terms of the fund-raising, yeah I’ll be outspent, certainly, because I don’t have national special interest dollars coming in trying to buy this election.
But there are some people who have said: Is Scott Brown running this campaign for the U.S. Senate, like other Republicans have in the past, when what they’re really after is another seat for another office down the road and the Senate campaign is mostly designed just to get publicity for a future run for some other office.
Well, once again, I take exception to your characterization — or anyone’s characterization — that I’m not running a serious campaign. I’m in it to win it.
Let’s move to the issues and let’s start with the economy: When I spoke with you a couple of months ago, you said you favored no new regulations on businesses, but rather to allow free enterprise and the market economy to get us out of this mess. Didn’t capitalism run amok and get us into this mess in the first place?
I’m in favor of good regulations, but we already have plenty of regulations, what we need is the enforcement tools and the enforcement agencies to do their jobs. And I think there was a breakdown in just that.
And that includes the finance industry?
That includes every industry. It’s one of the reasons that businesses are in flux right now — because they don’t know whether they’re coming or going; they don’t know whether they should plan for this regulation or that regulation. There’s a lot of uncertainty there.
In addition to that, one of the main things that we need to do is to get the banks that especially received bailout money to start lending.
The credit crunch is outrageous. You have many businesses that I visited throughout the state that the first question is: How do you get the banks to start lending money? Because we’re in a credit crunch, we can’t expand, we can’t hire, we can’t do this, we can’t do that.
How would you raise money to reverse the enormous federal deficit without raising taxes?
Five things I would do pretty much right away: I would give the president the line item veto, I think it’s important, it’s something I’ve always felt very strongly about; I’d do a top-to-bottom review of every federal program that’s receiving any type of money to see what’s working and what’s not — there’s certainly savings there; the $500 billion in Medicare waste and fraud that needs to be addressed; put a cap on spending — inflation plus 1 percent; look at entitlements.
But, certainly, the answer is not raising taxes right now.
You’ve been in the National Guard for 30 years. Where have you gone and what have you been asked to do in that capacity?
Thirty years this Dec. 29. I’m a lieutenant colonel; right now I’m the head trial defense attorney for New England, I represent anybody who does anything wrong, they come to me and I get them help.
I’ve been to Kazakhstan and I’ve been to Paraguay on military duty and I’ve been to Taiwan on civilian-exchange country building.
Do you worry at all about being deployed to Afghanistan or to Iraq?
I go where I’m ordered. You know, if I got the orders tomorrow, I’d, you know, suspend the campaign, kiss the wife and kids goodbye and do my duty. You wear the uniform, you get the check, you have to do your duty.
The Democrats running for this seat are pretty much all calling for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; you favor General Stanley McChrystal’s plan of sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Explain that.
They’re naive in their assessment of this. Because what’s happening now is, if the Taliban is allowed to go back into that area and then marry up again with al-Qaida, we will once again have an area that’s going to be exporting terrorism throughout the region and the world and it will put us in grave danger.
Health care: If a health care bill comes before U.S. Sen. Scott Brown that includes the Stupak-Pitts amendment, denying federal funding for abortions, which has been at issue in this Senate campaign, how would Sen. Brown vote?
It’s long been held that federal funds are not used for abortions, and I would not allow federal funding of abortions. And, more importantly, that’s one amendment to the overall health care bill that I would not support at this point.
The environment: You say you’re not in favor of cap and trade legislation but think we need to pursue alternative energies instead. What alternative energies do you think are most viable for Massachusetts and what knowledge of their current usage and development do you have that make you think that?
It’s a total approach — all the tools in the toolbox: wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, conservation.
Should there be more nuclear plants in Massachusetts?
Once again, it’s one tool in the toolbox and if you want to talk about eliminating the carbon footprint, that’s certainly one way to do it.
What about the very specific Cape Wind project, putting windmills in Nantucket Sound. Where are you on that, considering that you have a base of support on Cape Cod?
It’s location, location, location. It’s like — to me — it’s like putting a windmill in the middle of Boston Garden. One of the initial problems I have is that they’ve circumvented local rules and regulations and the federal government is stepping in and saying: Yeah, it’s nice, too bad you’re against it but we’re going to do it anyway. That bothers me.
But once again, more importantly, the location. That’s a national treasure that should be treated as such.
Let’s step back from the issues and let me ask you this: What do you consider to be the defining moment of your career in politics?
The defining moment is when I have people come up to me after I’ve solved problems and they’ve hugged me and they’ve thanked me and they have that look in their eye of just sincere appreciation.
That makes me want to continue to solve problems for people. And I find that extremely gratifying and I’m looking forward to doing the very same thing in Washington.
Sen. Scott Brown, thanks a lot for speaking with us.
Well, I appreciate the opportunity and I appreciate your time, too.