With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on Massachusetts and Election Day one week away, Senator Scott Brown called for a temporary calming of the state’s political storm on Monday, when he announced that he would not participate in the final Massachusetts Senatorial debate. It was scheduled to take place Tuesday night in Boston.
“It is simply not appropriate to go forward with a political debate when a disaster strikes,” Brown’s communication director Colin Reed said in a statement Monday afternoon. “The focus for all of us before, during and after the storm needs to be on emergency response and disaster relief, not campaigns and politics.”
Brown and Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren had already canceled their campaign events on Monday when Brown announced that he was withdrawing from the debate.
Brown’s announcement surprised debate organizers, who had planned to wait until 10 a.m. Tuesday morning to make a decision whether or not to cancel. The debate was sponsored by a consortium of Boston media outlets and was to be moderated by CNN’s John King.
Tuesday’s debate was expected to be the last of four between the candidates. Regina Daley, media relations manager for debate host WGBH, said that the consortium is working to reschedule the debate later this week, but ultimately the decision to debate will be up to the campaigns.
As Brown stepped off the campaign trail and into disaster relief mode, political experts said he may end up benefiting politically from the storm and its aftermath.
According to former Boston City Councillor Lawrence S. DiCara ’71, natural disasters like Sandy often benefit elected officials who can respond competently and capture the public’s attention and respect.
“I think that there’s a certain aura that surrounds any person in public life who is rising to the occasion,” DiCara said. “I think if Scott Brown is out there, it helps him out.”
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is likely to get a similar boost, according to DiCara. He said this could potentially aid fellow Democrat Warren’s campaign, offsetting the Republican Senator’s gains among Massachusetts voters.
“He’s going to wear that barn jacket, he’s going to go around in his truck, and he’s going to make his points, and there’s not much a challenger can do,” he added.
Todd Domke, a Republican strategist, said that Warren will look bad if she tries too hard to publicize her reactions to the storm, and to get involved in relief efforts.
“The challenger has to remain a bystander because if they [get too involved] it just looks like they are trying to politicize it,” Domke said.
Warren’s campaign said Monday that she would not debate in light of the storm and will follow the guidance of Gov. Deval L. Patrick ’78 until the storm had passed.
“Today the focus should be on safety. Elizabeth is asking everyone to heed the Governor’s warning to stay home if they can, and stay off the roads,” Warren spokesperson Alethea Harney said in a statement. “Elizabeth has canceled all public campaign events. She has closed all our field offices for the day and urges everyone to take necessary precautions.”
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.