The Brown effect

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He said he wanted to be “a Brown Republican,” but what does that mean? Judging from his voting record from the time he took office in February until June 15, Scott Brown is difficult to pigeon-hole. He is as likely to throw his lot in with Democrats as with Republicans, but most often he seems to be a voting soul mate of the other two moderate Republican US senators from New England—Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Of the 169 rollcall votes he has cast between taking office in February and June 15, Brown was recorded as yes 95 times and no 74 times. He sided with the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, 38 percent of the time. He voted with his political mentor, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, 81 percent of the time. It was Sen. Collins whom he sided with most often, voting with her 87 percent of the time.

A closer look, though, shows when Brown votes yes, he’s more likely to position himself with the Democrats than party-line Republicans. While he still teamed with Collins the most, with both voting yes on the same bills 94 percent of the time, he votes yes with Reid 56 percent of the time while only 31 percent with McCain. Among the key votes where he sided with Democrats were the jobs bill in March, the bill to regulate Wall Street, and the nominations of a Treasury undersecretary, a District of Columbia associate justice, and  an assistant attorney general, all of which were opposed by McCain and the Rep­ublican leadership.

When it came to just saying no, Brown was more in tune with his GOP colleagues. Brown and McCain agreed to say nay 92 percent of the time while the Bay State junior senator voted no in concert with Collins 78 percent of the time. Only 16 percent of the time did Brown and Reid see nay to nay.

And for those who thought they sent the 41st GOP senator to Washington to regularly uphold Republican filibusters and derail the Democratic agenda, you’re in for some disappointment. Brown took part in 13 cloture votes, the parliamentary term to close off debate and end a filibuster. Of those roll calls, Brown cast his lot with the Democrats eight times while voting to block bills or appointments by filibuster five times.

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The Massachusetts senator has stayed close to Washington in his first few months in office, but he’s done some campaigning for fellow Republicans around the nation. He’s also taken one official government business trip abroad to Pakistan, Dubai, and Afghan­istan, where he met with President Hamid Karzai.

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Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

Meet the Author
In 2008, Massachusetts had the dubious distinction of being the state with the lowest percentage of contested legislative races in the nation. But Scott Brown’s victory in the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy seems to have reenergized the Grand Old Party in Massachusetts. Republicans have nearly tripled the number of races where they are running for state Senate and more than doubled the number in the House. There are even contested races in the GOP primaries themselves. In 2008, there was just one contested Republican primary for the 160 seats in the House and none in the Senate. This year, there are 15 contested Republican primaries in the House and six in the Senate.