The closely watched race for the US Senate in Massachusetts has taken a negative turn. With three recent polls showing Democrat Elizabeth Warren with a small lead among likely voters, Republican incumbent Scott Brown is targeting Warren’s character. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Brown’s campaign hit the airwaves this week with a new ad about an old controversy; undocumented claims by Warren to Native American heritage and whether she improperly used it to advance her career. The ad uses a montage of television news clips from last spring, when the controversy first surfaced.
Warren responded with an ad that repeated her often made assertion that her claims of Native American ancestry were based on family folklore and denying that she used claims of minority status for any professional advantage.
Republicans had hammered away at Warren for months about the Native American claims, with seemingly little impact. The story had disappeared from day to day coverage of the campaign, but then Brown aggressively brought it back last week, in the first televised debate of the campaign.
Warren has said her belief that she has Native American ancestry is based on stories she was told as a child that her mother was part Cherokee and part Delaware. She listed herself as a minority in professional directories and was apparently counted as a minority on the faculty at both Penn and Harvard.
The Brown campaign believes the “character issue” is one it can win on. But the popular incumbent runs a risk with this line of attack, according to Tim Vercellotti , a professor of political science at Western New England University.
Brown refused to apologize this week after a video was posted by the liberal blog, BlueMassGroup that showed Brown supporters, including one member of his Senate staff, mocking Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry by making whoops and tomahawk chops at a Democratic campaign rally in Boston.
The new feistiness in the campaign is tempered somewhat by a pledge the candidates made early on to keep third party ads out of the Senate race in Massachusetts.. Vercellotti said he is surprised the pact has held up.
Brown and Warren have three more televised debates scheduled, including one in Springfield on October 10th that will take place in Symphony Hall. Hundreds of free tickets that were distributed two weeks ago were quickly scooped up.