President Trump will nominate former US senator Scott Brown to serve as ambassador to New Zealand, the White House said Thursday, a pick that won plaudits from both Democrats and Republicans.
Brown’s nomination will require confirmation by the Senate, but congratulatory messages from his former campaign rivals Senators Elizabeth Warren and Jeanne Shaheen signaled that Democrats probably will not worken masseto oppose the pick.
If confirmed, Brown, who served 35 years in the Army National Guard, would take an ambassadorship to a key US ally. New Zealand for decades has collaborated with the United States as part of the so-called Five Eyes alliance, which also includes Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.
Brown — a veteran Republican state legislator who rocked the political world in 2010 by winning the Senate seat held for 47 years by Democrat Edward M. Kennedy — was a key backer of Trump’s election campaign, endorsing him days before the pivotal New Hampshire primary in 2016. After Trump’s stunning win, Brown said he had spoken with the president-elect and was under consideration to head the Veterans Affairs agency.
That appointment never materialized. But the Globe reported in mid-February that the president was considering Brown for the New Zealand post and that Brown had told associates he believed it was his.
“President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to nominate Scott Brown as ambassador to New Zealand,” the White House said in a press release Thursday morning.
Brown declined to comment Thursday.
He lost a reelection bid to the Senate in 2012 to Warren, after serving for just under three years. He then moved to New Hampshire and ran unsuccessfully against Shaheen in 2014. Brown has also worked as a political analyst for Fox News, the White House noted in its release.
Trump aides did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.
Ronald Kaufman, a longtime Republican national committeeman in Massachusetts who said he became familiar with New Zealand when his daughter attended school there, said of the selection, “It’s a terrific place, a great ally, the people are awesome, very American-friendly, and I think he’ll enjoy it.”
On Thursday, after the White House announcement, Warren, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted from her official Twitter account: “Congrats @SenScottBrown on your nomination for New Zealand Ambassador! You have my support & I’m sure you’ll make the people of MA proud.”
“ I’m sure he’ll make Massachusetts proud,” Warren said Thursday evening.
She said the two had patched things up from their 2012 campaign, triggered late last year by her public support of his veterans affairs bid.
“I said I would strongly support that, that I had no doubt that he would fight from the heart for all of our veterans,” she said in a telephone interview. Afterward, she said, Brown called her.
“It gave us other chances to visit and also to catch up a little bit about” their families, she said.
Shaheen wrote her own note of congratulations, adding, “You have my support.”
Democratic US Senator Edward J. Markey tweeted his backing: “My congratulations to @SenScottBrown on his nom. to be US Ambassador to New Zealand. We appreciate your service to the people of our nation!”
Ambassadorship candidacies are reviewed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which both Markey and Shaheen sit.
Republican Governor Charlie Baker, too, praised the choice, saying in a press release that Brown “is a dedicated public servant who not only served our nation in the National Guard, but worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, State Senate, and US Senate. I’m confident he will devote his unmatched work ethic and experience to this new opportunity and I wish Scott and Gail the best of luck on this new endeavor.”
Brown’s wife, Gail Huff, is a former Boston television reporter.
The nod would make Brown the latest Massachusetts politician to accept a foreign posting. The late governor Paul Cellucci left the State House to serve as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Canada.
President Clinton nominated then-Governor William F. Weld to serve as ambassador to Mexico, but Weld ran afoul of conservative Senate Republicans and was never confirmed.
Former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn was Clinton’s ambassador to the Vatican. Former congressman Brian Donnelly served under Clinton as ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. Alan Solomont, a major Democratic fund-raiser, held the ambassadorship to Spain and Andorra under President Obama.
Brown’s January 2010 victory marked one of the nation’s top political stories that year and shook the state’s political world to its core, a little-known state lawmaker beating the heavily favored Democratic attorney general, Martha Coakley.
His regular-guy image – famously projected through his pickup truck and barn jacket – drove the campaign and made him a national figure, a symbol of GOP opposition to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
But Brown’s star ebbed in 2012, when Warren unseated him with a progressive message and by tying Brown to the national GOP, which was and remains unpopular in Massachusetts.
After losing his 2014 bid to take out Shaheen, Brown worked to re-fashion himself as something of a kingmaker in New Hampshire, hosting barbecues for presidential candidates, attendance at which he said was necessary to win his endorsement. Ultimately, he sided with Trump, who won both the New Hampshire and Massachusetts primaries last year.
Following Trump’s victory in November, Brown said the president-elect called him on his cellphone and they discussed the veterans affairs post, a Cabinet position. “He said he’s making his highest recommendation to his committee that they consider me,” Brown told the Globe at the time.
After the initial report of Brown’s potential appointment to New Zealand, the press there made light of the modeling he did in his youth. “Man tipped for US ambassador role in NZ a former nude model who supports waterboarding,” read a headline in the New Zealand Herald.