Boston College Expert: Scott Brown in NH
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Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Professor of American Politics
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R. Shep Melnick’s fields of expertise are American politics and the intersection of law and politics. Melnick teaches a variety of courses on American politics, including Courts and Public Policy, Ideas and Institutions in American Politics, Bureaucracy, Democracy in America, Rights in Conflict, and the American politics graduate field seminar. His first book, Regulation and the Courts, examined judicial influence on the development of environmental policy. His second, Between the Lines, investigated the ways in which statutory interpretation has shaped a variety of entitlement programs. Melnick is currently working on a book on civil rights and education. He is a former member of the New Hampshire state legislature and past member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ NH state advisory committee.
It’s been buzzed about for months and Thursday night it becomes official: former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown will declare his candidacy for the Senate seat in New Hampshire.
“This really shows the extent to which politics has been nationalized,” says Boston College Political Science Professor Shep Melnick, Ph.D. “The fact that this guy would even consider doing this, or that he’d be a serious candidate really shows that the politics has become so partisan and people view these things in terms of the national referendum, not who is going to best represent a particular state. Tip O’Neill used to say, ‘All politics is local’ and I guess this will be a test as to how local politics is now.”
Brown, a Republican, famously won a special election for the Massachusetts senate seat that opened up after the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, but he lost it in the 2012 general election to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. He moved into his New Hampshire vacation home in December and started laying the groundwork for a second bite at the political apple, this time in a bordering state.
“I think that’s going to be the number one negative for him,” says Melnick, a lifelong Granite State resident. “It’s pure opportunism. Once you get to the northern part of the state, people are going to wonder what he knows about New Hampshire. Additionally, Scott Brown took a moderate position on some social issues to get elected in Massachusetts and that’s going to spark a lot of opposition in the Republican primary here.”
If the 54-year old Brown can get past Republican challenger and former NH senator Bob Smith in the primary, he would take on former governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is serving her first term in the senate. It would pit two candidates who are moderates in their own party, and give the White House a reason to worry about losing a senate seat.
“Jeanne Shaheen is very well positioned, she’s very popular, and she has a great organization,” says Melnick, a former member of the New Hampshire state legislature. “The big thing she has to be concerned about and something the republicans are counting on is a wave election vote against Obamacare where the only thing that matters is are you Republican or Democrat.”