Mr. Brown gained national stature after he won an upset victory in a special election in 2010 after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, pulling that Senate seat out of Democratic control for the first time since Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. occupied it in 1953. Brown lost a hard-fought campaign to retain the seat in November, surrendering it to Elizabeth Warren.
Brown had been widely expected to run again, for the Senate seat vacated this week by John Kerry (D) in his move to become secretary of State.
“I have received a lot of encouragement from friends and supporters to become a candidate, and my competitive instincts were leading in the same direction,” Brown said in a statement released by his staff Friday.
Possibly hinting at a run for governor of Massachusetts in 2014, Brown said a Senate bid is “not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me.”
Brown’s decision may be driven partly by calculations of his electoral prospects and partly by doubts about the policymaking climate in Washington. Then, too, he would have had to muster the energy for a third Senate campaign in about as many years – this one just seven months after his November loss.
In his statement, Brown also hinted at some exhaustion with campaigning and with Washington.
“I was not at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time,” he said.
A run for Kerry’s seat would have put him on a five-month treadmill, ending in a June 25 special election.
Some polls suggest Brown would have an easier time winning the governorship than a Senate race. Massachusetts voters essentially split between Brown and US Rep. Edward Markey (D), in a hypothetical Senate race match-up, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday. Representative Markey is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but he'll have a contender in US Rep. Stephen Lynch (D).
But analysts at the polling group said that if undecided voters broke Democratic to the same degree they did for Ms. Warren in November, Brown would lose.
A win for governor can't be counted on as a slam dunk, but the poll found that for now Brown is a clear front-runner against some potential Democratic contenders for governor in 2014.
As a Republican from a heavily Democratic state, Brown won high favorability ratings among constituents in part for his political moderation and willingness to work with Democrats, and in part for his affability.
He’s known as a local-sports fan, an Army National Guard reservist, and a candidate who traversed the state in a pickup truck to meet voters. Early in life, Brown also had a range of childhood challenges (chronicled in his book “Against All Odds”), won a Cosmopolitan "America's Sexiest Man" contest, and worked as a fashion model while en route to a career in law and politics.
Brown’s 2010 Senate win, coming about 10 months ahead of scheduled congressional elections, served as a harbinger of the tea party tide that would sweep Republicans back into control of the US House of Representatives.
Now Republican leaders in the state face a scramble to select and rally around a candidate. Among the names in circulation are former Gov. William Weld and Kerry Healy, a former lieutenant governor.