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A new political landscape

Brown says he’s ready, heads to Capitol today

By Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / January 21, 2010

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Looking sleep-deprived and happy, Scott Brown emerged from his hotel room late yesterday morning for his first press conference as US Senator-elect, telling a function room packed with scores of reporters that he would head to Washington immediately, but deflecting questions about specifics of his agenda.

“I look forward to getting to work right way and trying to deal with all the very important challenges,’’ said Brown, whose campaign sent a formal request to the secretary of state seeking rapid certification of Tuesday’s result so that he can be seated before absentee ballots are counted.

“I’m hopeful that the Senate will seat me on the basis of those unofficial returns, just as they did for Ted Kennedy in 1962 and more recently [as the House did] for Niki Tsongas in 2007,’’ he said.

Brown, who will fly to Washington for a few hours today for what he dubbed “a courtesy call’’ to meet with some key Senate colleagues and some of the Massachusetts delegation, had started the day with an early-morning interview on the “Today’’ show, in which host Meredith Vieira asked what it means to be a “Scott Brown Republican.’’

Brown explained that he tried to be accountable and attentive, and reviewed issues on their merits, during his 19 years in office, first as a Wrentham town official and later as a state lawmaker.

“I’m a different kind of Republican,’’ Brown said, eyelids heavy after weeks of grueling campaigning and a raucous victory party at the Park Plaza Hotel that ended, for Brown, at 2 a.m. “I’ve always just wanted to go down and solve the problems, regardless of party.’’

After the interview, he retired to his room for a few minutes of sleep before coming out mid-morning in a Boston College sweatshirt to hug his two daughters goodbye while reporters watched. He did not emerge again until his 11:30 a.m. press conference. It was 11:27 - Brown is almost always early - when he entered the hotel’s Georgian ballroom.

Facing rows of reporters from around the world and a riser crammed with television cameras, Brown largely deflected a barrage of questions about his plans for the health care bill and his role as a potential spoiler for President Obama’s agenda.

“I think people need to give me a chance to do a little bit of a transition, see what’s on the agenda,’’ he said. “I’ll look at each and every bill for its merits and how it affects our state, and then I’ll make a decision. To say am I going to do this or am I going to do that, it’s really not appropriate right now. And I’d just appreciate the opportunity to at least get down there, open up an office, get a staff together.’’

Brown said he would leave the prognosticating to the pundits when asked about his role as a poster boy of a national Republican resurgence and stressed that he had a “big-tent philosophy’’ when questioned about how he would avoid partisan divisions in Congress.

“I was asked [during the campaign] many times what kind of Republican I would be,’’ he said. “I really didn’t know how to answer that, so I just said, ‘I’m going to be a Scott Brown Republican.’ Maybe there is a new breed of Republican coming to Washington. Maybe people will finally look at somebody who is not beholden to the special interests of the party and will look just to solve problems.’’

He touched on campaign themes, said Congress should encourage health care reform only on a state-by-state basis, and nervously chuckled at his own joke about bringing his truck to Washington to show President Barack Obama, who had suggested Brown’s well-traveled GMC was a faux-populist prop. He rejected a reporter’s question about whether he was of “presidential timber,’’ saying, “I haven’t even been down to Washington yet.’’

“I’m just honored to be in this position,’’ Brown said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to be here standing before you all and having an opportunity to send the country in a different and better direction. That’s my goal.’’

Brown also expressed respect for the president and reiterated a desire to challenge him to a game of two-on-two basketball, joined by his daughter, Ayla, a senior guard on the Boston College team. Then he slipped off again, surrounded by aides, to nap and make phone calls.

After the press conference, Brown returned to his room for several hours, later reemerging to slip through the lobby in his BC sweatshirt, leading his family’s pint-size dogs, a Shih Tzu named Snuggles and a Yorkie named Koda. Reporters converged as Brown walked, chatting by cellphone with his younger daughter, Arianna.

He was soon joined by his wife, Gail Huff, a WCVB-TV reporter who had stayed away from her husband’s campaign events for professional reasons, until the victory party. They slipped off for a private walk.

Back in the lobby, Brown chatted with an airline crew as Huff told reporters about Brown’s dog duty: He stops at home midday, every day, to let them out, even while campaigning.