In a surprising upset, Republican State Senator Scott P. Brown was elected yesterday to fill the United States Senate seat formerly held by liberal Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56, making Brown the first Republican Senator from Massachusetts in 30 years.
Brown defeated Democrat and Mass. Attorney General Martha M. Coakley, receiving 52 percent of the vote in the special election to replace Kennedy, who passed away last August.
While Coakley was an early front-runner in the polls, Brown tapped into residents’ discontent with the economy and frustration with the Democrats’ leadership in Washington.
“[Coakley’s] more of the same old politics in Washington,” said Mass. voter Lindsay D. Bauer. “I think [Brown] will help start to lead the nation in the direction that it should be going.”
Brown’s victory strips the Democrats of their supermajority in the Senate and reins in their ability to pass legislation overhauling the country’s health care system—a long-time goal of the late Senator Kennedy. Brown made his opposition to health care reform and his ability to hinder the bill one of the hallmarks of his campaign.
The passage of the health care bill is a top priority for President Barack Obama, who traveled to Boston last Sunday to campaign on behalf of Coakley.
“There is a lot at stake in this election for Obama" said Carlos E. Díaz Rosillo, a government department lecturer and Dunster House resident dean. "A big part of his first-year legacy is riding on health-care."
The close race between Brown and Coakley led to a high turnout in the polls. Overall, Massachusetts had a 54 percent turnout rate, with 54 percent of eligible Cambridge voters casting their ballot in the special election.
“The reason why we have such a high turnout is because a fair amount of Democrats realized that just by not paying attention we could let a Senator that doesn’t represent Massachusetts well slide into the Senate seat,” said Cambridge voter Fabio Idrobo.
Members of the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard Republican Club had been making phone calls over the past week to try to get out the vote, according to Dems President Jason Q. Berkenfeld ’11 and HRC President Mark A. Isaacson ’11.
Berkenfeld said that Coakley’s loss is a message to Democrats that “if we want change…we need to keep working.”
“Brown's victory is a warning shot to all Democrats running in 2010,” Isaacson said, “because if an underdog Republican candidate can win a decisive victory in the bluest of blue states, no Democrat is safe.”
—Staff writer Rediet T. Abebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Kerry K. Clark can be reached at email@example.com.