By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter–
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has named former aide William “Mo” Cowan as interim U.S. senator.
The appointment, which came on Wednesday, January 30, fills the seat left vacant by John F. Kerry who resigned from the Senate to become secretary of state. The Senate confirmed him to that post on a 94-3 vote Tuesday.
Kerry’s resignation takes effect on Friday, February 1 at 4 p.m.
Cowan, 43, is the former chief of staff and chief legal counsel to Patrick, having served in the administration since 2009.
A lawyer, Cowan is highly regarded and well-connected in Boston’s legal community.
An African American, Cowan will be the first black person to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since Republican Edward Brooke held the seat for two terms from 1966 to 1978. He is the second African American senator, joining Republican Tim Scott (South Carolina).
A North Carolina native, Cowan is graduate of Duke University. He holds a law degree from Boston’s Northeastern University.
News of the appointment came in a late morning press conference, held in the Statehouse and broadcasted live over local media.
“I am proud and delighted to appoint Mo Cowan,” said the governor in a statement beforehand. “Mo’s service on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger commonwealth for the next generation has earned him the respect and admiration of people throughout government. The people of the commonwealth have benefited from his wisdom and good judgment during his time in our office, and will again in the Senate.”
At the briefing, the governor, who is also African American, was asked about the significance of appointing a black person to the position.
“The fact is that the commonwealth and the community is changing,” said Patrick. “The breadth of diversity and background and ethnicity and race is deeper and broader than ever. I have known and believed for a long time that there is talent in every community in the commonwealth. To the extent that we can reflect that and encourage little boys and girls of color who grew up in marginalized circumstances to imagine what it might be like to serve the public in these ways – I think that is great thing.”
In selecting Cowan, the Massachusetts governor declined to appoint openly gay former Representative Barney Frank (D), who publicly sought the job.
Nonetheless, LGBT leadership in the state voiced praise for Cowan’s appointment.
“While we were hoping the governor would appoint Barney Frank because we believed Barney would have done a superb job and moved into the position in a seamless fashion, we recognized from the administration’s responses, that that was unlikely to happen,” said Arline Isaacson, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, a statewide lobbing organization.
“Mo is an excellent, albeit surprising selection,” she added. “He’s smart, experienced, and well respected among both elected officials and activists. He obviously has the governor’s confidence and a clear commitment to advance the needs of our state. The LGBT community and the progressive community need in this interim position someone who will defend and protect the interests and concerns we hold dear. I believe Mo will fit that bill easily and comfortably.”
The executive director of MassEquality, a statewide grassroots advocacy organization, also welcomed the appointment.
“MassEquality has had the pleasure of working with Mo Cowan during his time with the governor and has come to know his deep commitment to LGBTQ issues,” said Kara Suffredini. “We trust that he will continue to be a great steward of these issues during his interim appointment, and we look forward to supporting him in doing so over the next several months while we work to elect a replacement that similarly carries on the equality legacy of Sen. John Kerry.”
As a condition of his appointment, Cowan will not be a candidate for election to fill Kerry’s vacancy.
A primary election date is set for April 30, with a general election date for the Massachusetts Senate set for June 25.
For the Democrats, Congressman Edward Markey was the first candidate to enter the race.
Congressman Stephen F. Lynch announced his candidacy on Thursday.
For some time, former Republican Senator Scott Brown, who lost to Senator Elizabeth Warren last fall, was also expected to enter the race. But on Friday, Brown said that he would not be a candidate.
That news prompted openly gay former state Senator Richard Tisei, who lost a close congressional race this fall to Representative John Tierney on the North Shore, to issue a statement, which hints at the possibility of his entering the senate race:
“Scott’s exit from the race was obviously unexpected. That said, in the coming days I will be talking with family, friends, and supporters to consider the best role that I can play in helping to bring new, alternative leadership to Washington,” said Tisei.
© Copyright. Chuck Colbert. All rights reserved.
[UPDATE from TRT: A recent report from Metro Weekly report updates Tisei’s decision not to run at all for the senate seat].