Former US senator Scott Brown has begun seeking campaign staff while aggressively courting New Hampshire’s political elite, marking what local Republicans consider serious steps toward launching a Senate campaign against US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.
The stakes are high for the GOP’s national push for the US Senate majority this fall and for Brown’s own political ambitions.
The longtime Massachusetts resident, having recently relocated to his seacoast New Hampshire vacation home, is expected to launch an exploratory committee to enter the race as soon as Friday, say several New Hampshire Republican officials who spoke directly to Brown about his plans.
The move officially allows him to begin raising money and hiring staff.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose his plans before an official announcement.
Brown did not respond to requests for comment.
He spent much of the past two weeks calling key New Hampshire Republican officials and influential GOP activists, saying he was going to run and seeking their support.
At the same time, Brown’s camp has quietly begun offering paid positions to Republican operatives for a prospective New Hampshire campaign.
Several people involved in the discussions said some in the GOP establishment remain skeptical, given the former Republican senator’s recent track record.
Brown, 54, angered Massachusetts Republicans last year after indicating he would run in the state’s special US Senate election, only to change his mind late in the process.
‘‘He’s been reaching out to opinion leaders, to grass-roots activists, getting a sense of, ‘Would you be supporting a Scott Brown campaign,’ ’’ said former US representative Frank Guinta, who is running again for Congress and was included in Brown’s outreach efforts.
‘‘That, to me, says he’s serious,” Guinta said. “But I think only Scott Brown knows if Scott Brown is going to run.’’
Democrats hope he does not. While recent polls give Shaheen a solid lead in a prospective matchup, Brown’s near-universal name recognition in a state that shares a media market with Massachusetts and his national fund-
raising network would make him a serious contender if he should enter the race.
Shaheen, a former governor, was widely expected to win her first reelection test in November before Brown began hinting late last year that he might cross state lines to challenge her.
National Democrats already have their hands full defending more vulnerable Democratic incumbents across the country as they fight to retain their six-seat Senate majority.
With finite resources, they would rather not devote additional time or resources to a New Hampshire seat that was supposed to be safe.
But Democrats and their allies are already preparing for a worst-case scenario, having spent roughly $360,000 combined on television advertising against Brown in recent weeks.
Conservative critics spent heavily to weaken Shaheen earlier in the year, led by Americans For Prosperity, which spent roughly $700,000 on television ads knocking Shaheen’s support for President Obama’s health care overhaul program.