On Thursday, Brown faced off against the state’s incumbent U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
WMUR reporter James Pindell told Brown he wanted to move away from the “big picture conversation’’ and “drill down to main street here in New Hampshire.’’ Pindell asked Brown to speak about specific economic issues facing Sullivan County.
Brown then spoke about issues “up north.’’ Pindell stopped him to suggest that it sounded as though Brown was discussing the state’s “north country’’ and not Sullivan County. Brown responded by saying he was referencing “anyplace past Concord.’’ Pindell gave Brown a public geography scolding: “Sullivan County is west of Concord. It’s not north of Concord, Senator Brown.’’
Pindell: “Let’s go to the western part of the state, and lets talk about Sullivan County. Senator brown, what do you see going right in the economy in Sullivan County, and what’s going wrong? And please be specific.’’
Brown: “Well, you’re absolutely right. Geography plays a role. Along the southern border we have more jobs. We have more opportunity. Infrastructure and other opportunities up north are more difficult. One of the biggest opportunities is tourism, and one of the biggest opportunities are our ski areas and trails for snowmobiles. And I support those efforts.’’
Pindell:“We’re talking about Sullivan County. I think you’re talking about the north country. So what do you see as going well in Sullivan County, or not?’’
Brown:“I’m talking about anyplace past Concord, and the challenges of our state. So I’m referring to the challenges, including the high corporate tax rate, Obamacare coming in after the election. We also have – uh – the challenges of high electric costs. If you go to any business, in any county in our state, those are the very real challenges.’’
Pindell:“Sullivan County is west of Concord. It’s not north of Concord, Senator Brown.’’
Democrats quickly seized on the moment, calling it a “clueless fumble’’ and saying it showed Brown’s lack of knowledge of New Hampshire geography. The Shaheen campaign emailed a press release, conveniently announcing her plans for Saturday stops in the very county Brown seemed unable to identify.
With less than a week until election day, polls suggest the race is “too close to call.’’
James Neilsen, the mayor of Claremont (located in Sullivan County), said Brown’s comment went “far beyond an awkward moment in a debate.’’
“It’s about the next six years, and whether people in Sullivan and every other corner of this state will have a senator who knows and cares about their lives and their communities,’’ Neilsen said. “Tonight Scott Brown proved that not only can he not find us on a map but also that he doesn’t care about us at all.’’
Brown conceded to reporters that he “should have been more specific,’’ but claimed the whole thing was a misunderstanding: “Obviously it is north of Concord. I’ve visited every county and I’m going to continue to take that message of independence to every county.’’
Meanwhile, Pindell apologized: “We were talking about the location of Sullivan County. I said Sullivan County was west of Concord, not north of Concord. The truth is, it’s both. On this point, Scott Brown was right. I was wrong.’’
The key here isn’t that he misclassified Sullivan County as being “up north’’ when it is, in fact, in the “western central’’ part of the state.
Parents may have favorite children, but part of parenting is convincing your children – the voters – that you love each of them equally. And part of campaigning for statewide office is convincing voters that you love the state as a whole, and that every county matters, none more than any other. They all face unique challenges! They’re all special! They’re all important!
Brown lives in Rye, on New Hampshire’s sea coast and within commuting distance of New Hampshire’s main economic centers.
The key is that Brown said what he – and probably a lot of other people – think: that “anyplace past Concord’’ faces the exact same set of issues.
People who live in Manhattan think of traveling abroad as going anywhere requiring a bridge or tunnel. Maine, to many, is just a beautiful stretch of coastline. There’s no shortage of Bostonians who consider anything outside of Route 128 to be “western Mass.’’ And even in Boston, there’s the tendency to think of the city as stretching only from Fenway Park to the Seaport District.
Brown let slip the cold, hard truth that off the campaign trail, people living in the most populated part of any state often think of vast regions of the rest of the state as one lump. Up there. West of here. Down there. Over there.
You know, “anyplace past Concord.’’