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Scott Brown won his primary. Now he wants to be the first multi-state senator in 135 years

Scott Brown, after being elected senator from Massachusetts
Scott Brown, after being elected senator from Massachusetts
Robert Spencer/Getty

On Tuesday, New Hampshire Republicans voted to make former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown their party's Senate nominee, according to the Associated Press. The votes are still being counted, but in the most recent tallyBrown only got about half of the overall votes cast. Since the rest was split about equally between two other candidates, though, he won comfortably.

Brown is challenging Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in the general election, and he's gained some ground in polls recently, though he remains a clear underdog. If he does manage to win this November, his achievement would be historic — no one has represented two different states in the Senate since direct election of senators began in 1913. Before that — when state legislatures elected senators, and new states were frequently being formed — only two people ever did so, as Daniel Strauss of Talking Points Memo wrote last March.

One of them, Senator Waitman Thomas Willey, actually helped create his own new state — he served as senator from Virginia during the first years Civil War, and advocated to grant West Virginia statehood in its own right. When it happened in 1863, Willey was named one of West Virginia's first two senators.

The other multiple-state senator, James Shields, represented three different states — though he never managed to serve a full term for any of them.

Senator James Shields

Senator James Shields, via Senate Historical Office

Shields had a claim to political history several years before joining the Senate, because in 1842 he nearly fought a duel with Abraham Lincoln, according to a biography by Ronald White. Offended by insults against him in a local newspaper — some of which were authored by Lincoln, and some by Lincoln's future wife — Shields challenged the future president to a duel. Though Shields was an expert marksman, Lincoln got to choose which weapons would be used, and chose swords. White writes that, according to one account, "Lincoln, stretching out his long arm and longer broadsword, cut off the limb of a willow tree" to frighten Shields with "his extensive reach" — but that cooler heads prevailed and the duel was called off.

In 1848, Shields, an Irish-American immigrant, was elected to represent Illinois in the Senate — but his political opponents caused his appointment to be delayed for several months, because he had only gained American citizenship 8 and a half years previously, rather than the constitutionally-required 9 years. The Illinois legislature eventually pushed his appointment through with a special session, but in 1854 Senator Shields failed to win reelection for a second term.

Shields moved to the Minnesota Territory, and then became one of the new state's first two senators in 1858, but quickly had a stroke of bad luck. "When Shields and his colleague drew lots to determine when their respective Senate terms would expire, Shields got the term with less than a year remaining," the Senate Historical Office writes. He then failed again to win reelection, and had to leave office after only 9 and a half months. Shields didn't return to the Senate until 20 years later — when the state legislature of Missouri, out of "affection" for Shields' standing among Irish-Americans, named him to fill a vacancy that had just 6 weeks left in its term. Shields served those 6 weeks and died a few months afterward.

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