By Jack Minch
Sentinel & Enterprise
January 18, 2012
Two days before officially kicking off his re-election campaign, Republican Sen. Scott Brown visited North Central Massachusetts on Tuesday, which was a stronghold for him during his first campaign two years ago.
He went through Fitchburg, Leominster, Westminster and Wachusett Ski Area in Princeton, and said he is hoping his campaign against Democratic challenger and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren will be a civil one.
Brown and Warren campaigns are talking about making a public denouncement of political attack ads from third-party supporters.
“It’s something I called for last time,” Brown said, referring to his win over Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election to replace Ted Kennedy in 2010, “and something I called for this time.”
Brown and Warren are not legally allowed to communicate directly with third-party supporters, but Brown believes a joint public statement denouncing the ads could squelch them.
He is counting on voters in the heavily Democratic state to look beyond political-party labels to support him, he said, and is scheduled to open his campaign at Mechanics Hall in Worcester on Thursday.
His campaign focus will be on creating jobs. Regulatory issues are a concern for business leaders who are frustrated with uncertainty over the tax structure and credits.
“That’s putting everybody in a frustrating position,” Brown said.
Brown started the day Tuesday at Headwall Phototonics in Fitchburg and then went to lunch at the North End Diner on Nashua Street in Leominster, a visit organized by developer Gregg Lisciotti, where he met with about 20 business, political and civic leaders. From there, he went to the Aubuchon Hardware distribution center, the ski area and the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Massachusetts.
During an impromptu stop at the Fitchburg Fire Department, he took a ride 70-80 feet in the air in the new ladder truck’s aerial tower, Chief Kevin Roy said.
Brown surprised diners at North End and stopped at a few tables to say hello to customers.
John Ferrera and Jim McCarthy, both of Leominster, are registered independent voters and are Brown supporters.
“He’s a real down-to-earth guy,” McCarthy said. “No pretense.”
Joe Moscatelli and Carol Perry, both of Lunenburg, had a brief conversation with Brown as he walked past.
“I told him I admire the effort he is making with Elizabeth Warren to conduct a civilized campaign,” Perry said. “He said he and she will try to make it known that’s what they are doing. I think it’s so refreshing to have a civilized campaign.”
Brown loosened up his tie for lunch with about 20 customers. Waitress Patty Wilkinson served Brown a cheeseburger club.
Visiting with business leaders and residents is an important part of his job, Brown said.
He was enjoying the chance to reconnect with the region, recalling his visit to the Johnny Appleseed Festival in September. He has visited Leominster several times since taking office.
Fellow diner Dennis Walters of Fitchburg said he plans to vote for Brown.
“Can’t get anymore, let’s say, accommodating to the people,” Walters said. “I prefer not to vote for liberals, and he’s reasonably conservative.”
On his tour through Aubuchon’s 430,000-square-foot distribution center, he stopped to say hello to employees. The company president and chief executive officer, M. Marcus Moran Jr., has had discussions with Brown about health-care cost concerns and invited the senator to visit, Charles Aubuchon said.
Brown surprised Fred Haefner of Maynard at Wachusett Mountain by remembering the first time they met on the campaign trail.
Haefner started to ask Brown if he remembered meeting his then-5-year-old grandson Jackson, of Lunenburg, during a campaign stop in Littleton two years ago, but before he could finish, Brown recalled the boy sitting on his father’s shoulders.
Haefner said he is a little worried about Brown’s campaign.
“I think he’s got to get his message out — we need small business to maintain the economy,” he said.
Brown toured the Boys & Girls Club of North Central Massachusetts, including the expansion, which is under construction, with Executive Director Donata Martin.
Leo Gonzalez, 12, and Jonathan Areal, 10, of Fitchburg, demonstrated a robot used in the FIRST LEGO robotics competition.
“It was a really fun and great experience,” said programs instructor Janni Lor of Leominster.