By Annie Linskey
April 7 (Bloomberg) -- Republican Scott Brown said he’ll announce a run for a U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire this week, ending almost a year of speculation about his candidacy.
“I’m ready to make a big decision and I wanted you to be the first to know,” said Brown, 54, in an e-mail to supporters. “It starts by changing leadership in Washington.”
Brown, a former Massachusetts U.S. senator, would be the strongest challenger to Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, polls show, and the possibility of his candidacy has already attracted national attention and advertising from five out-of-state groups.
The matchup boosts Republican chances of gaining the net six seats they need to win a Senate majority. Of the 36 Senate seats on the 2014 ballot, most rated as competitive are held by Democrats.
Shaheen, 67, was New Hampshire’s governor from 1997 to 2003 and is the first woman in U.S. history to have both served as a state’s chief executive and senator. In winning her Senate seat in 2008, she became the first Democrat that New Hampshire elected to the chamber since 1974.
Last week her campaign sent out a news release anticipating Brown’s decision and calling on him to discourage outside groups from spending money in the race.
“It is time for him to sign the People’s Pledge for the Granite State and stop out-of-state third parties from spending millions on attack ads here,” said Mike Vlacich, Shaheen’s campaign manager.
Of the five groups that have put money into the race, three lean Republican and two primarily support Democrats. All 647 spots that have run since December have been negative, according to an analysis by New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks local broadcast advertising.
Before Brown can take on Shaheen, he’ll have to win a September Republican primary race in which at least three other candidates -- including former U.S. Senator Bob Smith -- are vying for the nomination. Smith, 73, represented New Hampshire from 1990 to 2003 then moved to Florida before returning to the New England state.
Some Republican activists are taking Brown to task for his past support of a federal assault-weapons ban -- including about 200 who protested in near freezing temperatures when he spoke at a Dec. 19 New Hampshire Republican Party fundraiser in Nashua.
Shaheen has characterized Brown as a Massachusetts carpetbagger who lacks an understanding of what New Hampshire residents want. The Senate Majority PAC, a super political action committee working to help Democrats retain control of the chamber, spent $160,000 on commercials earlier this year that sought to tie Brown to Wall Street.
Brown says Democrats are “distorting his record” and are “scared.” He also has cited his longtime ties to New Hampshire.
In his 2011 autobiography, “Against All Odds,” he recounts summers with his grandmother in the state as among his happiest memories during a childhood otherwise marked by abuse and family financial difficulties.
To stress those local ties, Brown plans to kick off his campaign on April 10 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town where his grandparents owned a home and a place that he said played a “special role” in his childhood.
A Massachusetts native, Brown was serving in the state Senate when won a special election in January 2010 to complete Democrat Edward Kennedy’s U.S. Senate term. Kennedy, who died in August 2009, had held the seat for almost 47 years.
Brown was the first Republican to win a Senate election in Massachusetts since 1972, and it initially appeared he had given his party the vote it needed to block passage of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, invoked procedural tactics that enabled the measure to pass with a simple majority.
Brown lost his 2012 bid for a full six-year Senate term to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
A Brown victory would make him the first person since in 1879 to represent more than one state in the Senate and the third in U.S. history to do so, according to the chamber’s historical Office.