Scott Brown spent most of the last four years saying jobs were his top priority. Now that he has announced he is not running for Senate, that passion becomes a lot more personal. The former US senator, whose every move once drew national attention, has to find a new occupation.
Two possibilities loom: Some Republicans are hoping he will run in the next big race ahead, for the governor’s office in 2014. Others believe that financial pressures and his exhaustion after two grueling campaigns in three years will lead him to seek a job out of the limelight, at a law firm.
Friends say he is already pursuing that option.
If he wants to run for governor in 2014, Brown would probably need to begin raising money this summer or fall, in order to mount a competitive campaign, say veteran politician strategists. He would be a formidable candidate, with his popularity in the polls and the state’s penchant for electing Republicans to the Corner Office.
But there are numerous hurdles, beyond fund-raising pressures. A race for governor could set up a conflict with Charles D. Baker, the 2010 GOP nominee, who is said to be contemplating another run. The men have been publicly supportive of one another and may wish to avoid a head-to-head primary. And Baker, a former budget director under Governor William F. Weld and former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has a resume that many say more closely matches the managerial responsibilities of governor.
Personal finances may also weigh on the former senator. Brown, whose income has dropped substantially since he left the Senate in January, has told friends that he has been pitching himself to law firms as a big name capable of generating business.
Brown was silent Friday on his specific plans, revealing no details in his statement announcing he would not run for Senate this year. He told a WBZ-TV reporter “it’s too early to say’’ whether he would run for governor in 2014.
While Baker has a strong following, some Republicans might welcome Brown into the race, given that he is the only GOP candidate to win a statewide election since Mitt Romney in 2002. Brown’s victory in the 2010 special Senate election remains an emotional touchstone and rallying point for a party that has faced a string of disappointments, including a Democratic sweep of congressional races in November, in addition to Brown’s loss to Elizabeth Warren.
“We hope he runs in the future,’’ said state Representative Ryan Fattman, a Sutton Republican. “He’s still kind of our white knight.’’
Brown was a relatively obscure state senator when he decided in 2009 to run in the special election to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy. Many assumed he was entering the race to raise his profile for a future run for a less lofty office, such as attorney general. But his enthusiastic campaign style and his image as a plainspoken regular guy in a pickup truck won over the public and the national Tea Party movement, as Martha Coakley drew criticism for a lackluster campaign focused on party insiders.
Brown’s victory made him a national celebrity who Republicans believed would be the crucial 41st vote against President Obama’s health care plan and a significant threat to derail Obama’s first-term agenda.
But state Democrats regrouped after Brown’s victory, sweeping statewide elections in 2010 and rallying around Warren in 2012. Powered by passion from Democratic activists and voters supporting Obama’s reelection, Warren defeated Brown in November by 8 percentage points.
If Brown were to run for governor, state fund-raising rules would make it important, if not crucial, for him to begin raising money soon because individual donors can give only $500 per calendar year in state races. That limit means candidates for governor typically begin raising money more than a year before the the election, so donors can give twice, once each calendar year, said Rob Gray, a political consultant who ran Baker’s 2010 campaign.
“The fund-raising requirements compel someone to fund-raise pretty relentlessly for governor,’’ said Jane Swift, a Republican and former acting governor, who added that, despite the fund-raising challenge, Brown has proven his ability to win in a heavily Democratic state.
Brown would not be able to use the remaining funds in his federal Senate campaign account in a governor’s race.
None of that would prohibit Brown from launching a gubernatorial campaign. If the field is clear and a candidate for lieutenant governor has a personal fortune to spend, the fund- raising challenges can be overcome, Gray said.
If Brown is interested in a job at a law firm, however, that could complicate his run for governor, because law firms typically ask for long-term commitments.
“He would be very marketable to some law firms,’’ said Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association. “There is a possibility that a firm would entertain him on a short-term basis, more in a rainmaker kind of a capacity, and may be willing to tolerate his aspiration to seek higher office.’’
Warren Tolman, a former Democratic state senator who is of counsel to Holland & Knight, said a firm that wanted to pay Brown for a short-term burst of publicity might hire him with an understanding that he may leave to run for office. But the firm would not pay Brown as much if its partners believed he would stay only a short time.
“A law firm isn’t going to invest a lot of time and money in him if they know that in six months, he’s got a foot out the door,’’ Tolman said.