"For the first time in a long time, the wind is at our back
instead of in our face," says Massachusetts Republican Party Chair
Jennifer Nassour, a Watertown resident who is of counsel to
Consigli & Brucato PC in Milford.
Brown's election to the late Edward M. Kennedy's U.S. Senate
seat may help usher in the next act for politics in Massachusetts.
Energized by Brown's victory, a number of prominent attorneys think
the Republican Party can become a player in state politics again.
Certainly, his win means that state attorneys active in the party
are feeling a renewed sense of mission, energy and enthusiasm.
Jeanne Kangas, an attorney with Concord-based Arnold &
Kangas, is also vice-chair of the state Republican Party. She
compares Brown's U.S. Senate win to the feeling of being a Red Sox
fan before the team won the pennant: "Some people couldn't believe
we'd won." Now, she added, people are hungry for more."
In a typical week, Kangas said, she would spend roughly eight
hours on political work. Now, with districts across the state
suddenly in play, that figure is easily doubled. It helps, she
said, that as the majority owner of her firm, she doesn't have to
tangle with workplace bureaucracy. The recession has also slowed
her family law caseload a bit, making the balancing act "a bit less
frantic than it could have been."
Ed McGrath, a partner at Burns & Farrey's Boston office,
said balancing a full-time caseload and an ambitious legislative
campaign "takes a lot of thought and effort, but it's certainly
manageable." As a litigator, McGrath said, he has a more flexible
schedule than others might enjoy. "No question, though, you make
your hours one way or another."
Yet Kangas also points out that a frantic election is what
most state GOP volunteers signed up for: A light campaign workload
means you're not competing well at the polls. "It's easy to say you
care a lot about public issues," she argued. "Things don't improve
if you do nothing. It takes a personal commitment to action."
A Demographic Shift
While the Bay State has historically been viewed as the bluest
of blue states, Independents count for half the commonwealth's
voters. Statewide voter turnout in the Jan. 19 election exceeded 40
percent, with three towns clocking in at 70 percent. Looking ahead,
the Nov. 2, 2010, midterm elections may well top the January
Republicans are now a tiny minority in the 200-member state
Legislature. Democrats outnumber them 144-16 in the House and 34-4
in the Senate with Brown's departure.
But across Massachusetts, dozens of candidates for statewide and
congressional offices have rushed to take out nomination papers -
many of them on the first day the papers were available. Candidates
have until the end of April to gather enough signatures to appear
on the ballot, so it is too soon to tell how many will actually
run. At the end of Jan., the Massachusetts Republican Party had
fielded more than 75 candidates for state and federal elections.
Twenty more rushed out to grab nomination papers in the weeks after
That list is likely to get much bigger, according to a roster of
experienced players in the Massachusetts legal community whose
involvement with the Republican Party goes back years. Lawyers
Journal tapped their insight for what the changed landscape might
Coming To The Party
The clearest result of the Senate election is that GOP legal
insiders are seeing more interest now from other lawyers, who have
been emboldened by Brown's win.
"Particularly when you're involved in the Mass. GOP, you tend to
see the same names over and over," said Dan Haley, an associate at
McDermott, Will & Emery. Haley serves as Republican
gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker's campaign treasurer,
responsible for overseeing compliance with state campaign finance
laws. "The most frequent comment I'm hearing at meetings now is,
'We're seeing a lot of new names,'" he says.
Some of those new names came from Haley's own office. During the
Brown campaign, he said, "several new people came up to me to ask,
'How can I get involved?' Now they're saying, 'Keep me involved
this year.' Excitement is building. It's more fun and interesting
when you have a chance to win."
When he ran for the Legislature two years ago, Haley burned
through vacation time. Now he's devoting large chunks of his free
time to Baker's campaign.
"It's like anything else - it's a balance," he reasoned. "Some
people play softball. Others get involved in politics. My firm has
been very, very supportive of me. That was true in 2008, when it
was not a Republican year, at all. It's a civic-minded firm. But
you don't let your client work suffer. Especially in this economy,
you can't let anything at work slip."
"I think what we're seeing is insiders out, and outsiders in,"
says Daniel Winslow. He has served as chief legal counsel for both
Mitt Romney and now, Brown, and he is running for the 9th Norfolk
seat being vacated by Richard Ross (see sidebar).
Haley sees a stark difference from 2004, the last time the GOP
took a run at the Democrat-heavy state Legislature: That push was
top-down recruiting, but now candidates are emerging from the
grassroots. "That's the most profound change Scott's win created,"
Haley argued. "An awful lot of people are politically-minded, but
before this winter, the calculus was, maybe someday, but for now,
there's not much prospect of winning. All of a sudden, now people
are deciding to run. That potentially has very long-term
A Healthy Outlook
Nurse-attorney Sharon Randall, affiliated with the medical
malpractice firm Crowe & Mulvey, concurs with Haley about the
changed political climate since 2004. Back then, she ran in a House
district covering Lynn, Marblehead and Swampscott.
"In 2004, it was harder for voters to see beyond party politics
on the ticket," Randall said. "I was personally blamed for the Iraq
War twice when I was door-knocking. Now voters are seeing that not
every candidate can be compartmentalized. It's less about party
Randall sees new optimism bubbling up from the local level. "The
Republican town committees in my community are feeling energized,
they're gearing up for a busy election cycle."
For herself, Randall said the demands on time as a volunteer are
different than when she ran for the Legislature, in 2004. What
hasn't changed is the sheer number of hours a campaign requires.
"When I was a candidate, I kept my job, and I was certainly
multitasking," she said. "Now, my weeknights and weekends are quite
busy. Evenings can be double-booked sometimes. It depends on your
level of activity and how much time you want to spend. I enjoy
being hands-on, so I sign up for lot of opportunities."
Randall said this election cycle has made more demands on
volunteers' time than past cycles because of the sheer number of
candidates running locally and statewide. "I'm proud to call a
number of them friends," Randall added, "so, to help a friend, you
spend more time, and you're pleased to do it."
Lawyers in the local GOP are also pleased that they are finally
finding a receptive, and broad, audience for their message.
"When unemployment's at 4 percent and housing prices are going
up and up and up," said Burns & Farrey's McGrath, the public is
"not as receptive to questions like, 'Are we spending too much
money?' It's a harder sell." Not any more.
McGrath hears concerns about jobs, spending and debt on the
campaign trail. He said he assumed the economy would turn voters
against incumbents, but he's surprised at how quickly that turn has
taken place. The challenge, he said, will be in tying incumbent
legislators to the overall economy.
"We've had Republican governors before, and the Legislature did
what they wanted," McGrath said. "We have a Democratic governor
now, and the Legislature still does what it wants. Clearly the
corner office's powers are limited, and if people want a change,
it's going to come from the Legislature. The trick is getting that
message out. We are going to pick up enough seats to sustain
[gubernatorial candidate] Charlie Baker's vetoes."
Elissa Flynn-Poppey, an associate at Mintz Levin's Boston
offices, says she sees Baker as the potential focus for many young
Republican voters. She has worked for former Massachusetts Gov.
William Weld and Mitt Romney, and the Republican who formerly held
Brown's legislative seat. She served as Romney's deputy legal
counsel, and also as executive director of the governor's Judicial
Nominating Commission. She points out that she also once worked for
Joseph Moakley, the former stalwart Democratic congressman from
South Boston. In Massachusetts, she says, you have to cross the
"I enjoyed working with Democrats at the Statehouse," she said.
"Everyone was trying to make Massachusetts a better place. I think
it helped the Democrats to hear a different point of view. And as
an attorney, it increased my advocacy skills."
No Time To Stop
Flynn-Poppey ascribes Brown's win to his willingness to engage
in a conversation with the electorate. "For a long time, people
were being told what to do," she argued. "When he spoke, it touched
people." She believes the U.S. Senate victory will be the catalyst
for "systematic changes" in state politics, by mobilizing a new
generation of young activists.
"Republicans better not rest on their laurels if they win these
offices," Winslow warned. "People like the capitalist system; when
the choice is creating government jobs or empowering private-sector
jobs, people prefer to go out and work."