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Kennedy’s GOP heir wins as everyman

Scott Brown has pulled off a huge political upset, defeating Democrat Martha Coakley — in one of the bluest states in the country — to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
APTOPIX Massachusetts Senate Brown
Massachusetts State Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, speaks to reporters after voting in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by former Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Tuesday.Robert F. Bukaty / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Four years ago, the Massachusetts lieutenant governor passed over Scott Brown as a potential running mate in her bid to replace then-Gov. Mitt Romney because she and her staff saw him as a political lightweight.

On Tuesday, Brown pulled off a huge political upset, defeating Democrat Martha Coakley — in one of the bluest states in the country — to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Brown not only regained control of a seat the Democrats had held for more than a half-century but gave the GOP the vote it needed to break the Democrats' Senate supermajority and block the health care overhaul nearly finished by President Barack Obama. He was the first Republican elected to the Senate from Massachusetts since 1972.

Those who know Brown are not surprised.

"He's a triathlete," said state Rep. Richard Ross, a fellow Republican from Brown's hometown of Wrentham. "He's a competitor, and a lot of people underestimated that. He outworks other people."

The 50-year-old Brown seized on Coakley's early complacency in the abbreviated campaign to define himself as a truck-driving everyman, a doting father and the candidate best suited to push back against a Democratic-dominated Senate.

Daily press events
While Coakley was largely out of view after she trounced three primary opponents, Brown held daily press events. He also posted the first television ad of the final election stretch, an audacious spot in which he compared himself to Kennedy's revered brother, the late President John F. Kennedy.

Reinvention is a skill Brown has used throughout his career, seizing opportunities where he found them.

As an undergraduate, he traded on his matinee good looks for work as a model, and while still in law school, he posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine — in a photo spread with a strategically placed crease in the magazine.

Later he enlisted in the National Guard and launched a political career that took him from the Wrentham Board of Selectmen to the Massachusetts House and Senate.

Brown said his dedication to hard work and family grew out of a difficult childhood.

"I didn't come from a lot of money," he said during a debate. "My parents are divorced a few times. My mom was on welfare for a period of time. I really came from nothing and worked my way up."

On the campaign trail and in debates, Brown drew bright lines between himself and his Democratic opponent — something Democrats believed hurt Coakley.

‘Able to define himself’
Massachusetts Democratic political consultant Mary Ann Marsh said Brown was able to capitalize on his strengths during the brief sprint to the special election, in part because Coakley and her supporters sat back after she won the Democratic primary.

"In a six-week race, he was given the advantage of having the field to himself for the first four weeks," she said. "He was able to define himself, define the race and define her, and nobody questioned him."

Brown grew up in Wakefield and attended Tufts University in nearby Medford. He now is both a lieutenant colonel and the National Guard's top defense attorney in New England. Although he's never been deployed, he has been on assignments in Paraguay and Kazakhstan.

Brown met his wife, Gail Huff, now a reporter for Boston's WCVB-TV, in 1985 and the couple married a year later. They have two daughters. Ayla, 21, made it to the top 16 performers in 2006 on TV's "American Idol." Her sister, Arianna, is 19.

Brown said his ties to his home state run deep.

"I was raised here and I'll probably die here," he said.