Democrat Sherrod Brown on Winning in Ohio

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One Democratic newcomer to the Senate will be Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He defeated Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. Brown, who will be moving from the House to the Senate, talks to Steve Inskeep about how the election will affect the minimum-wage issue.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We don't know yet if Democrats will win the Senate. Two races - Montana and Virginia - are still undecided, and Democrats would have to win both to control the Senate. If they do prevail, it will be with the narrowest of margins.

One Democratic newcomer to the Senate will be Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He defeated Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. And when the new Congress takes office in January, Sherrod Brown will move from the House of Representatives to the Senate.

He joins us on the line right now. Good morning.

Representative SHERROD BROWN (Democrat, Ohio): Good morning, Renee. Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: Glad to have you. Let's start with some specifics. How much are you going to have to compromise on things such as raising the minimum wage, which was one of the cornerstones of your campaign?

Rep. BROWN: Well I think the first thing we should do is pass the 9/11 Commission recommendations. There will be dozens of Republican votes for that in the Senate, and dozens and dozens of votes in the House. The same thing with the minimum wage; I think the same thing with embryonic stem-cell research. I think we also can bring forward the bill to fix the Medicare law so that the Medicare and Medicaid bureau negotiates directly with the drug companies on behalf of 40 million Medicare beneficiaries, the same way the VA has for years negotiated lower drug prices on behalf of 7 million veterans.

It's incumbent upon us to deliver and to work bipartisanly and to put forward proposals with wide bi-partisan support.

MONTAGNE: Well, you have been one of President Bush's biggest critics. Are you going to be willing to work with the White House to accomplish your agenda, considering that you have very strong commitments to these various items?

Rep. BROWN: Well, of course I will work with the White House. I'll work bi-partisanly as I did on trade issues in the House and on some prescription drug issues. If you take the Republican leadership out of the equation, there are a lot of issues where rank-and-file Republicans in the House and Senate and, you know, millions of Republican voters - and I got a lot of those votes this year in Ohio - where they want to see us do things; that they do support the minimum wage, they support lower drug prices, they surely support protecting our country by passing the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission recommendations, and they support embryonic stem-cell research.

So I think on a whole host of these issues there are enough Republicans to either push President Bush into modifying his position - occasionally convincing President Bush, sometimes overriding a presidential veto - but I want to work with President Bush to reach some real consensus on these issues.

MONTAGNE: Now some of your new colleagues in the Senate are moderate Democrats. How do you see yourself or the Senate being positioned - governing from the left or the center with this new strength in numbers?

Rep. BROWN: My race in Ohio - a state that's gone Republican way more often than not in the last dozen years; a state that people say is a slightly conservative state - I ran a very outspokenly progressive campaign, standing up for the middle class, taking on the drug companies and the oil companies, making them, you know, whose side are you on?

And I think that that campaign shows that you can win in moderately conservative states as progressive Democrats - someone who's outspokenly supportive of and advocating for the middle class. I think that will work in the Senate as it worked in Ohio. It's what I am. It's what I think an awful lot of Democrats are, and I think it's a position that a lot of independents and Republicans found attractive in Ohio this year and will continue to around the country.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much for joining us.

Rep. BROWN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the senator-elect from that state. He defeated a Republican incumbent, Mike DeWine.

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