Wolcott Helps in Mass Senate Win

by LonSeidman

The course of the country was changed last Tuesday when Republican State Senator Scott Brown upset Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley by a five point margin in a special election for US Senate. The race has national implications for Democratic proposals for healthcare reform. Senator-elect Brown announced that Democrats would need to begin working with “Democrats and Republicans to reform healthcare in an open and honest way – no more closed door meetings, and backroom deals with an out of touch party leadership, no more hiding costs, concealing taxes, collaborating with special interest and leaving trillions more for our children to pay. We need to start fresh in order to the job right. We can do better! ”

The campaign in the Bay State went into high gear around Christmas when Coakley went on an extended vacation. “He just kept campaigning right through it -that was the game changer,” noted a Brown staffer. Senator Kennedy held his seat for 42 years and the state is considered very Democratic where Republicans only number about 13%. Voters without affiliation account for 50% of the electorate. Despite Coakley’s popularity in Massachusetts, many observers note that she lost the election.

Nick Taylor, a volunteer driver for Brown noted how he got started in the race. “I left the Navy and looked at who I was interested in this race and signed up. There were four people volunteering at that time and myself and Scott campaigned for 10 days without stopping back at the office. When we came back there were over 50 people there- I was like ‘what happened?'”. Another assistant manager in the Holyoke office confirmed he had only been with the campaign for two weeks. “I returned proudly to my native Massachusetts to help out.” he said. Indeed, the campaign became tighter after Coakley was ahead by 30 points before Christmas, but was only ahead by 9 two weeks later. Brown’s personable appeals of common sense and humility won over one voter at a time.

“All of us were competitive as kids,” notes Bruce Browne, Scott’s younger brother. Bruce is a Wolcott resident and the youngest of the 4 Brown siblings. In the weeks leading up the election he kept in constant touch with Scott and his parents by phone and travelling to Massachusetts for various rallies. Indeed that competitiveness wasn’t lost as Brown consistently narrowed the gap with voters in the final weeks. He kept a breakneck schedule. Before Brown’s pep rally last Sunday at Mechanic’s Hall Bruce approached him enthusiastically “what’s going on, buddy?” Pausing but smiling, Scott replied “I’m tired.” Outside the hall stood Wolcott resident June Vitiello who travelled up with a carpool of Wolcott and Waterbury residents. “There were so many people there they had to shut down surrounding streets. We went to different areas of Worcester holding signs and were just really happy with the amount of support rom the people driving by,” she said. Further west, resident Chris O’Brien joined friends from Southbury, New Britain and Westborough Mass. making phone calls and handing out fliers in the West Springfield area.

No doubt that after a grueling schedule which left over 201,000 miles on Scott’s pickup truck, Brown has had a busy month. Yet, Bruce noted his older brother was in good spirits. “He asked my son if he would like to read a speech for him. My son replied ‘no you can do it.’ Scott smiled.” Bruce Browne traveled to Boston with a small delegation from Connecticut to support his brother’s election on election eve. Joining him was House Republican Minority Leader Larry Cafero, State Representative Themis Klarides, fellow residents Robert Ficeto and O’Brien as well as two other Republican volunteers.

Arriving in Boston, the atmosphere at the election eve party was electric. Volunteers and friends and supporters young and old of all political backgrounds wore blue or brown Brown campaign shirts and made new acquaintances. Much of Brown’s family and friends gathered in one large room with the air of a reunion party. Others enjoyed entertainment in another room – including by Brown’s daughters who sang for the crowd. “This is just unbelievable” said Scott Brown’s younger brother of the number of people turning out both Tuesday night and through the previous fast-paced weeks.

Bruce Browne, who spells his name with an ‘e’ owns a local security company in Wolcott. Like his brother, Browne calmly mingled with those around him. Despite seven years age difference, Browne looks very much like his older brother. At one point, while taking in the festivities while looking over a balcony in the hotel’s atrium, supporters started taking pictures of Bruce with their cell phones, thinking he was Scott. “What are they taking pictures of?” he asked at the time, forgetting his resemblence. More than once he was asked if he was his brother.

At 8:35 pm Scott Brown joined friends and family in a side room shortly after the polls closed to say hello. “I don’t know anything about the results yet. I just wanted to stop by and let everyone know that I wouldn’t be anywhere close in this race without every one of you” Brown told the room of about 200 people. He continued noting that “this is the people’s seat” even alluding that the people could remove even him if they decided to. Brown ran on a common sense campaign which took many middle of the road stances on issues. Added to that supporters included Patriots Quarterback Doug Flutie and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. In contrast, Coakley distanced herself from voters when she called Schilling a “Yankees fan” and spelled her home state incorrectly in an advertisement. These, coupled with Brown’s personable nature led to the election decision which were known about 90 minutes later.

While election results trickled in, there was little for the crowd or Brown to do but wait. Plenty of people networked and told stories of the campaign, hoping for future victories like this one. Some were hoping for more “average Joe” candidates like Brown to step forward in races in Connecticut and throughout the nation. A small bulletin board in Brown’s hotel room had a sampling of letters the campaign recieved. Most were from within the state, but half a dozen were from others. One read “I’m a staunch Democrat… Go Scott!” Another from a Wisconsin couple said “we know $20 isn’t much but we can’t afford much. You are an inspiration to the country”. Back downstairs, Elvira Palmerio was decked out in a flag sweater and pants. She spent the day making calls for Brown in the Needham campaign office but recalled Brown’s first run for office. “I remember him stopping at the Needham Senior Center handing out nail files for his first campaign. Simply put, he’s just a very nice guy. There’s absolutely nothing phony about him. Washington will probably try to change him, but that’s what they said about him in his first campaign. He’s stayed true to himself though, and I’m sure he’s going to great things.”

Shortly after 10 pm Browne just returned to his brother’s room where former Governor Mitt Romney and Patriots Quarterback Doug Flutie and other close family had also gathered. The room was quiet. “He was alone in a side room on the phone – Martha Coakley had called,” said Browne describing the moment he realized his brother had won. It was one of a series of phone calls Brown took, including one from President Obama. “He has a sense of humor,” Brown said the next day about the conversation where he challenged the President to a basktball game. Meanwhile, supporters downstairs erupted in cheers as TV screens posted the numbers from the election.

Some supporters debated the meaning of Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. John Silva, an immigrant from Brazil who now lives in Boston said that voters “don’t want socialist health care like they have in Europe. Overall, Europe is in worse shape than we are.” Andy Donovan, an activist Democrat from South Boston supporting Brown disagreed. “This isn’t about healthcare. Its about everything. People just want good common sense. They want security.” Local flag waver ‘Ziggy’ Berisha of Waterbury said plainly “Americans are waking up and taking back their country.”

During his celebration speech, Brown noted that “We are united by basic convictions that only need to be clearly stated to win a majority. And if anyone doubts that in this next election season which is about to begin – well let them take a look at what happened in Massachusetts!” he said sending a message nationwide. “What happened here can happen all over America. Ideals, hard work and strength of heart can overcome the political machine.” Brown warmly thanked the crowd and voters throughout Massachusetts for their support of his campaign and that he’ll work with everyone regardless of affiliation for the betterment of the state and the nation. Over his left shoulder, his brother Bruce was smiling broadly.

All interviews took place between Sunday Jan 17th and Tuesday Jan 19th from supporters in the Wolcott area, in and around the Holyoke campaign office and at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Boston.

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