PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Scott Brown, who rode a wave of discontent to an upset US Senate victory in Massachusetts in 2010 but was swept out of office in 2012, officially announced Thursday he is taking the plunge again, this time to the north.
In unfurling his bid to unseat Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Brown repeatedly attacked her record Thursday night. He knocked Shaheen’s vote in favor of the health care overhaul, said she had supported economic policies that hurt everyday folks, and labeled her a “rubberstamp” for President Obama.
“She’s a very nice person, but she’s wrong on the issues affecting the people of New Hampshire,” Brown, 54, told a crowd of about 200 people in a hotel ballroom.
The Republican asked supporters whether the state was “being well served by this out-of-step, out-of-touch Obama-Shaheen agenda?”
“No!” they replied.
The speech, with a tone at once aggressive and warmly introductory, laid out what appeared to be two of the main thrusts of his nascent campaign: tell voters why they should kick Shaheen out of office while explaining who he is to people still getting to know him.
Brown, who represented Massachusetts as recently as January 2013, played up his ties to New Hampshire, where he moved his primary residence last year and spent the earliest part of his life.
Traveling in the Portsmouth area, he said, he passed numerous familiar spots.
“That includes, obviously, the river and the harbor, where my grandparents used to bring me when I was a boy,” he said. Brown added that he had taken his two daughters, who joined him on the stage, there as well, and might bring grandchildren some day. “No hurry! Just sayin’. No hurry,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
Democrats in New Hampshire say they see Shaheen, a former governor who won her first term in the US Senate in 2008, as well poised for victory.
State Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley, who was camped out near the Sheraton where Brown gave his speech, said voters know Shaheen and vice versa.
“She knows the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “She’s been here. She knows the community.”
Shaheen’s campaign manager, Mike Vlacich, released a statement in response to Brown’s announcement.
“This election will be a choice between someone who cares only about himself and the big corporate interests that fund his campaign and someone who works every day to make a difference for New Hampshire families,” he said.
While Brown faces a primary contest, state Republican operatives said they believe that with a solid effort Brown would emerge from the Sept. 9 election as the party’s nominee.
Dave Carney, a GOP strategist, said Brown would have to work hard to get the nomination. But “unless he screws up, I think he will,” Carney said.
Even at his kickoff, Brown appeared to have the imprimatur of the state’s GOP establishment: After his daughter Ayla sang the national anthem, he was introduced by former governor John H. Sununu.
Sununu said Brown “will vote the way New Hampshire wants him to vote.”
“We’re here because we can count to 51,” he said, referring to the number of senators needed for Republicans to take control of the legislative body. Analysts believe the November midterm elections could result in the GOP winning the majority of seats in the US Senate, which is currently held by Democrats.
Other Republican contenders in the New Hampshire race include former US senator Bob Smith, former state senator Jim Rubens, and conservative activist Karen Testerman. Those candidates have worked to run to the right of Brown, who, in 2012, framed himself as a common-sense moderate who put his constituents’ interests over party orthodoxy.
On Thursday, Brown also emphasized a message of independence, while telegraphing that he understood the zeitgeist of New Hampshire, where voters place outsize importance on face-to-face contact with candidates. He said he loved hearing from people from every part of state, even when they did not agree.
Carney said embracing retail politics would be essential for Brown. “It’s very simple in New Hampshire,” Carney said. “People want to look you in the eye, ask you questions, judge your character by your answers, and move on from there.”
Brown upset Attorney General Martha Coakley in the 2010 Massachusetts special election race to succeed Edward M. Kennedy. In 2012, Democrat Elizabeth Warren unseated Brown.
He announced last month that he was exploring the Granite State race and has spent much of the time on the campaign trail going after Shaheen. For her part, she has knocked him for refusing to sign a pact to limit outside spending in the race and said he represents oil interests and Wall Street.
Politicos expect an expensive campaign with bitterness and negativity from both sides.
“It’ll be all-out war,” said state Representative Gene Chandler, a Republican. “Ready for it or not, it’s coming.”