It's been 37 years since Massachusetts voters sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate. Edward Brooke was the last in a long line of GOP senators sent to Washington. With an open seat and a special election less than four months away, state Sen. Scott Brown of Wrentham hopes to change the fortunes for his party and occupy what's come to be known as "the Kennedy Seat."
Brown admits he is an underdog in this race, but he's been in tough battles before. The 50-year-old was the son of divorced parents — his mother was on welfare. The turning point, he said, was when he discovered he had a talent for basketball at Wakefield High School.
"I was the Middlesex League MVP, all star and then went onto Tufts University, had a great experience there and was able to teach my kids and other kids," Brown said. "So those life lessons of being hungry and not having a whole lot defined who I am and what I believe in."
From Tufts, Brown went on to get a law degree from Boston College. While in law school, he did some modeling to help pay the bills, including one photo shoot for Cosmopolitan Magazine. Later, as an attorney, specializing in family law, Brown got interested in politics on the town level.
In the early '90s, he was elected assessor in Wrentham and then to the board of selectmen before winning a seat in the House of Representatives in 1998. Brown said those experiences would help him in Washington.
"Knowing how the people in the municipal level and the government officials and ordinary citizens are trying to deal with a lot of the cuts, not only statewide, but nationally, you know, the whole trickle-down theory, you know, when the state's in trouble, the first thing they do is cut municipal funding sources," Brown said.
"Just being there for so long, and walking in the grocery store and having someone say, 'Hey Scott, I need help with A,B,C or D,' — you're accountable, you're accessible, they know where you live, and if you don't solve the problem, they'll let you know about it."
In 2004, Brown saw an opportunity to move up to the state Senate after the Democratic incumbent in his district resigned. Brown won the seat by a mere 349 votes.
"Scott's been one of our superstars here in the caucus and he's really made a name for himself in a short period of time," said Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei of Wakefield. "There aren't too many Republicans in the state Senate, so in order to be effective you have to really work harder and be more dedicated and follow the process a lot closer than a rank-and-file member."
In his time as a state senator, Brown has focused on opposing higher taxes and what he calls "wasteful government spending." But he does have his critics.
"It just isn't a stellar record, and that's what I hear from a lot of people — there just isn't a lot of there, there with Scott," said Mary-Ann Greanier, chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee in Plainville, which is part of Brown's district.
Greanier is concerned that Brown doesn't have the temperament to be a U.S. senator.
"As we're trying to get work done, as we're trying to best figure out what to do for our district and the Commonwealth, he basically just disregards anyone who doesn't hold the same opinion as he does, and seems often insulted and seems upset if anyone questions him on anything," Greanier said.
Greanier cited a speech Brown gave to King Philip Regional High School students in 2007, in which he took issue with profanity-laced comments posted by students online. Brown said they were aimed at him and his family, and he doesn't regret his remarks.
"There are larger problems and bigger problems than my picture being in a magazine 27 years ago, or what I read to some students," Brown said. "We have some very, very real and serious problems — security, homeland security — that I plan to work on very seriously down in Washington."
One focus in Washington could be veterans' services and benefits, which Brown has worked on as a legislator in Massachusetts. As a National Guardsman since 1979, Scott Brown said joining the Guard is one of the best things he's ever done.
This program aired on September 28, 2009.