NASHUA, N.H. — Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on Friday said he wants to “stop complaining and get involved again” by formally joining the race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
The longtime Massachusetts resident, who recently moved into his seacoast New Hampshire vacation home, said he was launching an exploratory committee to enter the Senate race at a Republican conference in Nashua, ending months of speculation about his intentions.
While Brown has yet to file formal candidacy papers, his decision all but ensures that the GOP will have a top-tier contender who, win or lose come November, helps his party’s national push to claim the Senate majority, a shift that could fundamentally reshape the final two years of President Obama’s presidency.
Underscoring the significance of Brown’s move, the Washington, D.C.-based Republican ally American Crossroads announced plans to invest $650,000 in a television-advertising campaign against Shaheen beginning next week.
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Strategists on both sides said the contest could quickly become the most expensive in state history.
Brown, facing a packed hotel ballroom late Friday, said his wife told him he should run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire if he really wants to make a difference.
“Honey, you are right,” he said just before the crowd gave him a standing ovation. “I’m going to stop complaining and get involved again.”
Recent polls give Shaheen, 67, a solid lead in a prospective matchup, but Brown’s near-universal name recognition in New Hampshire and his national fundraising network make him a serious contender.
Brown, 54, whose move to his vacation home satisfies a state-residency requirement, rose to national prominence by winning the 2010 special election to replace the late Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward
Kennedy. But he was defeated in his first re-election test against Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012. His first race, like this year’s New Hampshire contest, hinged on the popularity of Obama’s health-care law.
Earlier in the day, Fox News Channel formally cut ties with Brown, who had recently renewed a contract to serve as a paid political contributor. Fox and other networks regularly feature former politicians but don’t continue paid relationships once they become candidates.
Brown’s decision overshadowed appearances by other high-profile Republicans on the first day of the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference, which features prospective presidential candidates and other GOP leaders looking to court New Hampshire voters and put their stamps on party affairs.
If he goes ahead with a Senate bid, Brown first has to emerge from a crowded Republican field. Another former U.S. senator, Bob Smith, is looking to win back the seat he lost in 2002. Jim Rubens, a former state senator, and Karen Testerman, a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, are also running in the September primary.
Democrats had scoffed at a prospective Brown candidacy, noting that he also was considering a 2016 presidential campaign. Brown canceled plans to visit Iowa next month and downplayed his White House aspirations Friday.
Material from the Tribune Washington Bureau is included in this report.