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Scott Brown's latest step stirs the pot

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 15. 2014 10:18PM
Scott Brown, during the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference, at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Paul Chevalier of Hudson is urging Scott Brown to run for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, but he also wants to learn more about his positions.

"There are a couple of issues I need to get straight with him," he said. "The Second Amendment is a big thing."

Still, he sees Brown as the Republican with the best chance to defeat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Brown, the former Massachusetts senator turned Granite Stater, launched his exploratory committee Friday. He was scheduled to visit six New Hampshire towns Saturday. In that listening tour, dubbed "Main Streets & Living Rooms," he planned to field questions from would-be supporters, like Chevalier.

A past state commander of the VFW, Chevalier is no stranger in GOP circles. He campaigned with John McCain for President. He supported U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. He served as a veterans chairman for former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, R-N.H., when Sununu beat former Sen. Bob Smith in a rough-and-tumble Republican primary in 2002.

Chevalier is also the first person on Brown's YouTube video posted to his Facebook page (which, as of Saturday, still listed a post office box of Wrentham, Mass.). In the video, Chevalier speaks of the nation's debt piling up on his grandchildren's generation, and he references Shaheen's comment that people who like their health care plan can keep it under Obamacare. Chevalier quips, "How's that working out for you?"

Brown told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Friday that his exploratory committee "isn't about Jeanne Shaheen," but about issues of importance to New Hampshire and the nation.

Yet, Republicans looking to challenge Shaheen think she is vulnerable, said Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman for New Hampshire.

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith and conservative activist Karen Testerman are already seeking their party's nomination.

The GOP contest is very much about Shaheen because of her support of the Affordable Care Act and President Obama, according to Duprey. He said Brown's interest is great for the race.

"It will energize the primary and the fall election," he said.

And Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said Brown's entry into the race would make Shaheen more vulnerable to losing her seat in the Senate.

"Yes, because it raises the possibility that a quality candidate will face Shaheen," he said. "Also, Brown's head and shoulders above anyone else in the field. Brown's candidacy increases the chance that outside money, super PACs, will enter the race and that could hurt Shaheen, as well."

Ads are ready

It has already contributed to big ad buys targeting Shaheen and Brown. American Crossroads is planning a $650,000 buy targeting Shaheen this week.

Shaheen on Saturday sent Brown a letter asking him to sign the "People's Pledge," similar to what he and Elizabeth Warren pledged in their Massachusetts race in 2012, to limit spending influence by outside groups, including corporations and Super PACS.

Republicans were quick to note that Shaheen was coming off a major West Coast fundraising swing.

Mike Vlacich, Shaheen's campaign manager, said Republican interest groups have already spent $1.5 million on attack ads in the state this election cycle.

Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic national committeewoman from New Hampshire, said special interests on Wall Street are spurring Brown to run. Shaheen and the Democratic Party have had the same response for weeks.

"This whole thing is not about New Hampshire. It's about Scott Brown, actually," Sullivan said. "I'm not sure he makes his way out of the Republican primary."

Scala said sees a couple of interesting story lines coming out of this Republican primary. Fundraising prowess and the impact of the grassroots are two things to watch, he said.

Brown immediately reshapes the Republican side of the race and emerges with front-runner status, Scala said.

"There's nothing that unifies a party like the prospect of winning a major race," he said. "For all the hoopla about Scott Brown, this election is ultimately about Jeanne Shaheen."

Chevalier would agree. "I don't think Smith, nor Rubens, can beat Shaheen," he said. "She's got to go."

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