Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Scott Brown: Puzzling Out The GOP's New 'It' Boy

Scott Brown surprised everyone last week when he won the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy.
Charles Krupa
Scott Brown surprised everyone last week when he won the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy.

Ever since Scott Brown's stunning upset last week stripped Democrats of their supermajority, Brown has become the new darling of the GOP.

But many people are still trying to figure out exactly who Scott Brown is: the "everyman" who campaigned in his blue jeans and pickup truck, or someone else altogether.

"If you woulda told me growing up that a guy whose mom [was] on welfare and parents had marital troubles ... that a guy from Wrentham [Mass.] would be here ... are you kidding me?" says Brown, who seems as shocked as anyone by his meteoric rise from his modest roots.


Brown first got interested in politics as a teenager, helping his father run for state representative. It's not easy being a Republican in Massachusetts, but Brown has won every race he's run.

He calls himself fiscally conservative and socially conscious, and Brown's got an alluring story of a self-made guy and patriot who's served 30 years in the National Guard.

But he's not a one-dimensional caricature; Brown's a multifaceted guy who won't be pigeonholed.

One of his closest friends is Jim Vallee, the Democratic majority leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The two have even held joint fundraisers. Vallee says that speaks to Brown's independence, and how he's not an ideologue.

For example, Brown opposes certain abortion procedures, but says he supports a woman's right to choose.


He opposes President Obama's plan to overhaul health care, but supports mandatory coverage in Massachusetts.

"I think he does have deep convictions and values," says Vallee. "And I think he does beat to his own drum. He's his own man."

Indeed, in his 20s, when Brown helped pay for law school by posing nude for Cosmopolitan, the magazine dubbed him a "not-so-shy show-off."

And at 50, he wasn't shy about jumping into a Senate race most thought he could never win.

After his stunning upset, he wasn't shy about suggesting he'd just spawned a new breed of "Scott Brown Republicans."

In fact, shyness doesn't seem to run in Brown's family. His wife is a well-known local TV reporter, and his daughter has some national aspirations as well.

Brown's older daughter, Ayla, became something of a star on the fifth season of American Idol. On the show, she credited her father for piquing her interest in music by singing to her.

"I actually thought he was Elvis till I was 9 years old," she says, adding she was embarrassed when her friends told her one day that it wasn't her dad singing on the radio, it was Elvis Presley.

It wouldn't be the last time she felt embarrassed.

Now 21, Ayla's jaw dropped when Brown introduced her and her 19-year-old sister, Arianna, on election night, then veered from the script.

"They are both available," Brown said to the crowd. "Only kidding, only kidding. Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is."

Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who served with Brown in the state Senate, says that speech was classic Brown.

"Scott's a normal person, and he's not all caught up in Washington-speak," Tisei says. "And he's very down-to-earth. And he's very authentic."

Critics, on the other hand, see Brown as prone to making politically incorrect statements.

Like the time he called his opponent's decision to have children with her lesbian partner "not normal."

"That was stunning," says Mary Ann Grenier, a Democratic activist who has worked for Brown's opponents in five races.

While Brown has courted independent voters by vowing to be open-minded, Grenier says she's found Brown to be anything but open-minded.

"I never see him giving in," she says. "He has this smile and affability, but when push comes to shove, he believes he is right all of the time."

Supporters say that's just Brown — he has the courage of his convictions. And Brown is nothing if not resolute.

"He's a pure competitor," says his friend Vallee. "You know, he's a gladiator in an arena. Once he steps in, he knows only one [is] stepping out, and he wants to be that person. He gives everything 100 percent."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit