Scott Brown carries the weight of great GOP expectations to D.C.
Friday, January 22, 2010; 10:30 AM
Scott Brown left the truck back in Massachusetts.
At 9:30 on Thursday morning, the Republican state senator arrived by US Airways shuttle at Reagan National Airport, though he rode a GMC-driving everyman image and a wave of Tea Party-stoked, establishment-financed frustration into the U.S. Senate seat of Jack and Teddy Kennedy. Looking fresh and fit, he stepped out of Gate 43 for his crash-course introduction to official Washington.
"You know, I'm a routine guy, I like getting up and walking the dogs and getting a good workout, going down to the local diner for a good breakfast," said Brown in his first interview upon arriving in Washington. "Coming here and disrupting my routine, the transition is just a little bit overwhelming."
Everyone in town wanted a sense of this 41st Republican senator whose out-of-the-Massachusetts-blue victory had deprived the Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority, disordered a health-care overhaul a year in the making and inflicted a gaping wound into the ambitious Obama agenda. He had used the time in the air to prep for meetings with the most powerful men in the U.S. Senate. Democratic leaders including Harry Reid and John Kerry, now desperate for a swing vote, wanted to believe the hype that he was his own man. The Republican leaders, such as John McCain and Mitch McConnell, were simply elated that he had arrived and was one of them.
For all of Brown's studied out-of-towner modesty, he couldn't have looked more the part of Washington lawmaker, as he disembarked and greeted luggage-toting well-wishers. He wore a gray suit, navy tie spotted with red horseshoes, and a blue shirt with a Polo Ralph Lauren emblem hidden behind his lapel. The 50-year-old's full head of hair achieved salt-and-pepper perfection and his voice never rose above a muted register.
His prior visits to Washington, he explained, were mostly to watch his daughter Ayla, a college basketball player, play against American University, or to visit the monuments "as a tourist."
"I'm a history buff," he said. "I love the Museum of Natural History."
"Senator-elect?" a guard at the Russell Senate Office Building called over to Brown later in the morning, as the man of the day started emptying his pockets at the metal detector. "You can come right this way."
Brown apparently couldn't believe he was part of the country's most exclusive club.
Raised in Wakefield, Mass., Brown's parents divorced when he was a year old, and each has gone on to divorce three other people. A changing cast of relatives and stepparents raised him, and he stole a Black Sabbath record as a 12-year-old that led him, so the campaign mythology goes, to get shamed straight by a beneficent judge.
After he got a Boston College law degree, he married Gail Huff, an actress who was known in Boston as the bikini-clad woman in an early-'80s Digney Fignus music video, "The Girl With the Curious Hand." In the video, Huff's curious hand poisons a drink and squirts suntan lotion in the air. ("It means different things to different people," Fignus said in an interview.) Huff is now a well-known newscaster on the Boston ABC affiliate.
Brown rose steadily from town assessor to town selectman, and with the help of Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, to state senator, always in the tiny Republican minority. "Scott's going to think he died and went to heaven because he went from four Republican colleagues to 40," said the Republican leader in the state Senate, Richard Tisei, who is part of a close-knit quintet that calls themselves the Band of Brothers. For years, the Republicans would take an annual retreat up to the Red Lion Inn in the Berkshires where they'd talk shop and knock back beers.