Sunday June 24, 2012

Associated Press

BOSTON -- After being forced to sit out of the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, former Boston-area television report er Gail Huff is back on the Massachusetts airwaves, this time to support her husband, Sen. Scott Brown, in his re-election bid.

In a series of ads rolled out in early June, Huff speaks about her relationship and family life with Brown, who is campaigning against Democrat Eliza beth Warren to keep his seat.

Speaking to the camera from the family’s home in Wren tham, Huff references her marriage, family and long career as a local reporter -- a position that required her to be largely kept out of Brown’s 2010 campaign. She now works for ABC7/WJLA-TV in Washing ton D.C., after spending 17 years in front of Boston cameras.

Brown "is by far the most un derstanding of women, probably of any man I know," she says in the 30-second ad titled "Husband," which many agree is an attempt to reach the coveted independent female vote.

During a Thursday radio interview, Brown skirted questions on whether or not the ads were made to target women, saying they depict real life and the supportive relationship be tween him and his wife.

"I’m honored to have my wife next to me and helping me for the first time," he said.

But whether ads featuring her will appeal to the desired demographic remains to be seen, political consultants say.

Patrick Griffin, a senior fellow at the St.


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Anselm Institute of Politics, said a wife supporting her husband’s campaign in televised ads is common.

Griffin, a Republican consultant who has worked on campaigns across the country, points to the ad titled "Dad" where Huff speaks about Brown stepping in to manage the household so she could pursue a broadcast career, saying he believes her ability to have a career would likely ap peal more to voters than her recognition.

"This is a very artful way to say to women: this Scott Brown is not the Republi can that War ren says he is," said Griffin said, noting he be lieves Brown’s ability to sep arate himself from some conserva tive issues will go a long way with independent fe male voters.

He called the ad campaign a "masterful political stroke," saying it humanizes the Repub lican senator and gives voters a sense of authenticity that they are not seeing from his political opponent.

Meanwhile, Demo cratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh, who has worked on the campaigns of Sens. John Kerry and Ed ward Kennedy, says she be lieves Brown is using the ads to distract female voters away from his record in Congress.

"It’s clear, the only reason he did these ads now is because he voted against the in terests of every wo man in Massachu setts," Marsh said.

Marsh points to Brown’s par ty-line vote against the so-called "Paycheck Fairness Act," which aimed to strengthen the Fair Labor Standards Act’s protections against pay inequities based on gender, as well as his support for the "Blunt amendment" that would have allowed employers to re fuse coverage of services for "moral reasons" under the Obama administration’s birth control coverage bill.

Both proposals failed in the Senate.

According to OpenCongress, a nonpartisan project of the Participatory Politics Founda tion and the Sunlight Founda tion, nearly 70 percent of Brown’s votes are along party lines -- ranking the Repub lican’s voting record among the most bipartisan in the Senate.

But, Carol Hardy-Fanta, the director of the nonpartisan Cen ter for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the Uni versity of Massachusetts Bos ton, said Brown’s ad follows a recent trend taken by male politicians.

"Male candidates are putting out ads and making comments about their support for women and their appeal to women, but most of them seem to be having a hard time explaining what they’re doing that will actually help women," she said. "In stead, they’re portraying themselves as family men."

Hardy-Fanta said women in Massachusetts who are on the fence about which candidate they will support need an ex planation of how voting for Brown will benefit them.

Like Griffin, she also said while it’s no surprise to see his family backing his campaign, Huff’s celebrity in the Boston-area, as well as her media ex per tise will not hurt Brown’s bid.

Brown’s campaign said the ads aim to highlight the Sen ator’s role as a husband and father because they are large part of who he is.

"There’s no better person to tell that story than his wife Gail," said campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre.

Warren’s campaign would not comment on the ads or Huff’s introduction to the campaign.