Former senator Scott Brown said late Wednesday he would not run for governor next year, ending months of uncertainty within the Republican Party and effectively sweeping a path to the nomination for 2010 gubernatorial nominee Charles D. Baker.
Brown, whose surprising 2010 Senate win leaves him as the only Republican to win statewide since 2002, said he hoped to pursue private-sector opportunities but did not foreclose on future bids for office.
“I’ve decided, with my wife’s blessing, that I will not be running for governor of Massachusetts in 2014.” Brown said on WBZ-Radio’s “Dan Rea Show.”
After losing his reelection bid to Democrat Elizabeth Warren last year, Brown took a job with the Boston law firm Nixon Peabody and as a commentator for Fox News.
In a Facebook post, Brown wrote, “I have been fortunate to have private sector opportunities that I find fulfilling and exhilarating. These new opportunities have allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I want to continue with that process.”
Brown told WBZ he would support Baker if the Swampscott Republican wages a second campaign for governor but raised doubts about Baker’s ability to appeal to voters. “Is he Mr. Personality? No,’’ Brown said. “Everyone knows that, he’s not.”
Brown’s announcement comes as Republicans in Massachusetts and elsewhere have increasingly chafed at what they called Brown’s office-shopping. His public flirtations with running for various offices – including the US Senate next year and the presidency in 2016 – while leaving open the prospect of seeking the corner office have stymied the state party’s efforts to cobble together a strong ticket next year.
While Brown had publicly left open the option to run for governor, GOP insiders had long questioned his sincerity.
“Is anyone really surprised?” GOP strategist Jason Kauppi said after Brown’s announcement Wednesday night. “I think Senator Brown was probably having some fun with all of it, keeping people guessing.”
Privately, some Republicans said they suspected Brown was working to elevate his national stature while eyeing a 2014 Senate challenge to Democrat Edward J. Markey.
A veteran Republican strategist said prior to Brown’s announcement, “He’s not running for president. He’s not running for governor. So he’s doing all this, or his team is doing all this, to the aggravation of everyone else. Just to keep him relevant.”
Last weekend, Brown took a four-state swing through the Midwest, including Iowa — the first state to vote in presidential nominating contests — repeatedly hinting that he might run for president. And he has openly flirted with challenging Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, where he owns a second home.
Jim Merrill, a New Hampshire GOP strategist who was a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, called Brown’s “office-shopping” a drawback if he is considering that race.
“I like and respect Scott Brown a great deal, but it’s time for him to get serious about what office he wants to run for,” Merrill said. “I think people are getting a little tired of him saying, each week, what different office he wants to run for.”
Merrill said Brown could be viable in New Hampshire but had hurt himself by floating the idea of running there without following up concretely. “I think it’s jarring to voters, and I think it’s a disservice to potential candidates in New Hampshire,’’ Merrill said.
Brown’s Iowa interlude, and public statements about interest in the White House, have also struck Republicans, both in Massachusetts and nationally, as a dubious proposition, despite his avowal to return to the first caucus state.
“I don’t know how serious he is,” state Senator Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican who served with Brown in the state Legislature said prior to Brown’s announcement.
“Madness,” Mike Murphy, a longtime GOP consultant, tweeted on Sunday, linking to a Des Moines Register story on the visit. The Iowa Republican caucus, Murphy said, “would eat him alive.”
Still, Brown’s come-from-behind win over Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2010 for the Senate seat long held by the late Edward M. Kennedy, has lent him something of a permanent folk-hero status to certain Republicans. Brown’s ability to lure independent and traditionally Democratic voters offered a template, strategists in both parties say, for how Republicans can win in what can feel like bottomlessly-blue Massachusetts.
Even before Brown’s announcement, Republicans had anticipated that Baker would run for governor. The Globe reported in March Baker had told associates his calculus around the 2014 race depended less on Brown and instead on whether a Republican could win statewide. A Republican fund-raiser with ties to both Brown and Baker said that during a February conversation between the two, Brown had indicated he would not run for governor.
Baker did not return multiple calls for comment after Brown’s announcement.
In 2010, Baker challenged Governor Deval Patrick but lost in a race that was complicated by the unenrolled candidacy of Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill.
Since then, Baker has worked at General Catalyst Partners, a venture capital firm, and recently has been boosting his public profile.
After Brown’s announcement late Wednesday, several Republicans privately said they were relieved that the party could exit its limbo stage. Several Republican candidates are eyeing statewide and federal office, a potential candidate yield that party strategists call heartening and say could help them break through the Democrats’ stranglehold on prominent offices here.
“I know a lot of people are thinking about what they want to run for, and I’m thinking about people, because I’ll have to fill the ticket, and that’s on me,” state party chairwoman Kirsten Hughes said prior to Brown’s announcement.