It’s Now Sen. William “Mo” Cowan: Former Patrick Chief Of Staff Sworn In

Image: William Cowan is sworn in as Massachusett's new senator.
Photo by Edward Donga/BU News Service

By Edward Donga
BU News Service


WASHINGTON—With his predecessor – now-Secretary of State John Kerry – and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., by his side, the Bay State’s newest senator, Democrat William “Mo” Cowan was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on the Senate floor at noon Thursday.

Cowan, a former chief of staff and legal counsel to Gov. Deval Patrick, will be in office for less than five months. He will serve until June 25, when a special election will be held to fill the remainder of Kerry’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of 2014.

“I’m not here to make a mark. I’m just here to do the work that’s required,” Cowan said while meeting with press after the event. “Governor Patrick had the confidence in me to send me down here to focus on the things that matter most to the people of Massachusetts.” He reiterated his previous assertion that he will not run in the upcoming special election.

“The one thing I’d like to achieve is just make sure that the people of Massachusetts are well-represented by their two members in the Senate, by the caucus as a whole, and to focus on the things that Massachusetts cares about,” said Cowan.

Patrick, who appointed Cowan to fill Kerry’s former seat on an interim basis, was also present at the ceremony to see his former top aide sworn in.

“I’m grateful to Secretary Kerry because as he goes to do his important work he’s left me with a very experienced staff who’s been very busy getting me up to speed and briefing me on all of the important issues of the day,” said Cowan.

One of the issues on which the staff has been briefing Cowan is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, on which Cowan was expected to cast his first vote as a senator later Thursday.

“I’m wholly supportive of the bill,” Cowan said. “I think it’s important to do what we can to protect our woman and others in the greatest need, and I’m looking forward to casting my first vote.”

Cowan will be temporarily operating from space in the Senate’s Dirksen Office Building, although aides said that he will take over Kerry’s former office – in Room 218 of the Senate’s Russell Office Building – once some transitional matters are addressed.

One of the first senators to congratulate the North Carolina-born Cowan on his new position was Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., himself appointed in December to replace former Sen. Republican Jim DeMint, who resigned to become president of a Washington-based think tank.

Scott, a former member of the U.S. House, is the only other African-American member of the Senate, and his and Cowan’s overlapping tenure mark the first time that there have ever been two African- Americans serving in the Senate at the same time.

Including Cowan and Scott, only six African-Americans have served in the Senate since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. The first was Massachusetts Republican Edward Brooke, who served from 1967-1979. Also among this group is President Obama, who represented Illinois for four years before being elected to the White House.

“He remarked that he’s only been here a few weeks himself, so he is still learning his way around, but he offered his support and assistance,” Cowan said later in relating what Scott had said to him. Unlike Cowan, Scott – a Tea Party conservative – is expected to run next year to fill the remainder of DeMint’s term.

Democratic Reps. Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch are competing for the Democratic nomination in the coming special election to fill Kerry’s seat. Due to last week’s decision by former Republican Sen. Scott Brown not to run, the Democrats – who now control the Senate by a 55-45 majority — are widely favored to hold on to the seat.

Cowan, who lives in Stoughton, was accompanied by his family, including his wife and two children and his mother. He posed for pictures with them and other politicians after the event.

Cowan said it was their presence that made the day special. “Days like today are what my mother spoke of when I was a kid — that if you just worked hard, you did the right things, and you treated people well, anything could happen,” he said.

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