One GOP heavyweight took himself out of the special Senate election last night while another -- former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown -- won a bitterly contested battle for control of the state Republican Party.
Charlie Baker, the former Harvard Pilgrim CEO who lost the 2010 gubernatorial race to incumbent Deval Patrick, told the Herald in an interview that he has ruled out running for U.S. Senate even if Brown, who lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in November, bows out.
"I don't really think of myself as a senator, and secondly I'm very involved in this company," said Baker about his job as executive in residence at General Catalyst Partners in Cambridge.
In a vote that could affect Brown's decision on whether to run, GOP committee leaders last night elected the ex-senator's former campaign aide and hand-picked choice, Kirsten Hughes, as party chairwoman. Hughes won by just a two-vote margin over her opponent, Rick Green, a Tea Party-backed candidate.
Sources said Brown was threatening to stay out of the Senate race if Hughes lost. The close vote shows just how divided the party remains after the Republicans' devastating election defeat.
Brown is due back in Mass-achusetts today and should make a final decision on whether to run in days. Several party sources said they expect him now to try to win back a Senate seat in the special election.
If Brown stays out, the party's hopes of taking John F. Kerry's Senate seat look bleak. Baker did urge former Gov. William Weld, who just moved back to Massachusetts, to run if Brown doesn't.
Baker warned that the Republican Party would need a well-known candidate if Brown decides to stay out.
"Given the short time frame, it's got to be someone with statewide name recognition," Baker said. "Somebody like Bill, if he were interested, would be a pretty obvious candidate."
Weld did not return messages from the Herald, but sources close to the former governor said it's unlikely he would get into the race.
Former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who also is mulling getting back into politics, did not return a call from the Herald but could jump in if the GOP needs a credible candidate. Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who lost a tough congressional race in November, is also a potential Senate candidate.
"A lot is riding on Brown's decision," one GOP consultant said, adding it could also affect whether the GOP has a chance at winning in 2014, when the special election winner must run again. "The pressure is on Brown to run because it's a winnable seat if he runs."
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