Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown moved one step closer to returning to Washington with a win Tuesday in New Hampshire’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.
With 78 percent of the state’s 301 precincts reporting, Brown had just under 50 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press.
His two main opponents, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, split most of the remaining ballots.
Brown will take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November, a match-up that seemed like a foregone conclusion from the moment Brown entered the race in April. Aside from a single television debate, Brown virtually ignored his primary competitors and, with the help of several deep-pocketed outside groups, went right after Shaheen.
Taking his cue from Republican candidates around the country, Brown immediately began framing the race as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act. A day after launching his campaign, he began an “Obamacare Isn’t Working” tour, calling Shaheen “the deciding vote” in the Senate for the health care reform law.
In late July, after thousands of undocumented children began showing up on the U.S. border from Central America, Brown shifted his attacks to what he called the “immigration crisis on our hands.” He launched television ads that criticize Shaheen for supporting immigration reforms that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., which Brown characterizes as “amnesty.”
Brown won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, but was beaten handily in 2012 by Democrat Elizabeth Warren. He moved to New Hampshire, where he had a vacation home, in 2013.
Early polls showed Shaheen with leads of 8-10 points over Brown, but that margin appears to have narrowed in recent weeks. In late August, a poll conducted for the political group American Crossroads had Shaheen with a 3 point lead. A more recent CBS News/New York Times poll showed Shaheen with a six point lead.
The contours of the coming battle in the general election began to take shape while primary voters were still trekking to the polls, as Shaheen’s campaign released two new television ads Tuesday.
One touts her record, including her role in preventing the closure of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and in securing funding for the I-93 expansion and the Memorial Bridge project. The other amplifies familiar attacks on Brown, including shots at votes he took when he was in the Senate that allowed the five largest oil companies to continue claiming certain deductions to reduce their tax bills.
If Brown beats Shaheen, he would become only the third U.S. senator to have represented more than one state, and the first since voters took over for state legislators and began directly electing U.S. senators.
In comments at the Puritan Conference Center in Manchester, Shaheen didn’t outright call Brown a carpetbagger — but the message was clear.
“The fact is, Scott Brown may have changed his address, but he hasn’t changed his stripes,” she said. “So now Big Oil and the Koch brothers and Wall Street are spending millions to get Scott Brown back to the Senate. But we are not going to let that happen. New Hampshire is not for sale and New Hampshire is not Scott Brown’s consolation prize.”
In the state’s gubernatorial primary, Walt Havenstein won the GOP nomination and will face incumbent Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in November.
In the 1st Congressional District, former GOP Congressman Frank Guinta will face incumbent Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, whom he beat in 2010 and lost to in 2012. In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Marilinda Garcia, who at 31 would become one of the two youngest members of the House, will face Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster.