Warren Announces Run For Brown's Senate Seat

fromWBUR

Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren officially began her Senate campaign in Massachusetts Wednesday. If Warren wins the Democratic nomination, she will challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown next year. Warren faces a crowded field of Democrats vying for the nomination. National Democrats have made a priority of unseating Brown, who now occupies the seat held for decades by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

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Massachusetts has a new Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. Harvard law Professor Elizabeth Warren entered the race today to challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown. From member-station WBUR in Boston, Fred Thys reports.

FRED THYS: Here's a measure of the buzz that Elizabeth Warren is generating in Massachusetts. Last night, Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Republican front-runner in the presidential race, was the main speaker at a dinner here. But Republicans at the event were talking about Warren's decision to run against Scott Brown.

This morning, Warren greeted voters and recruited volunteers at a subway station in South Boston.

ELIZABETH WARREN: It's very nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We cannot wait to work on your campaign. We're so excited.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MAN: Oh, that's great. I'm delighted to hear that.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Very eager interns.

WARREN: That's exactly what I need.

MAN: Yeah.

THYS: By shaking hands with voters, Warren is sending a signal that she is not Martha Coakley. Coakley was the Democratic Senate candidate who last year lost to Republican Scott Brown in a special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy. During that campaign, Brown had been outside of Boston's Fenway Park, greeting hockey fans at a rare outdoor game. When asked why she wasn't out there, Coakley replied: In the cold? Republicans are trying to paint Warren as an out-of-touch Harvard professor. So she was out there today, mingling.

WARREN: This is fun.

MAN: You think this is fun?

WARREN: It's better than a congressional hearing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

THYS: Warren has spent a lot of time in congressional hearings over the past few years, a champion for a consumer protection agency for financial services.

WARREN: I've stood up to some pretty powerful interests over the last few years. I've gone toe to toe with them, and I didn't back down. In the case of the consumer agency, we actually won, even though people told us: You're going to be up against the biggest lobbying force assembled on the face of the Earth. No possible way you can win this.

THYS: Republicans opposed her, and President Obama ended up finding someone else to run the agency. By kicking off her campaign in traditionally Irish South Boston, Warren is going after the working-class voters who supported Scott Brown. An AFL-CIO survey after the election found that half the union vote went to Brown. Carpenter Dennis Flaherty knows why Brown won.

DENNIS FLAHERTY: He made a good impression here in South Boston. He made a lot of trips over here. I was shocked at how well Brown did.

THYS: Across the street, Greg Nowak is taking part in a Boston morning ritual before heading over to his job in the financial district a few blocks away: He's ordering coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. Last year, Nowak voted for Scott Brown. What motivated you to support him?

GREG NOWAK: To stop the health care passage, to be honest with you. That will do it.

WOMAN: Can I help the next person, please?

THYS: Brown promised to be an independent senator, and he sometimes bucks his own party on important votes. For example, he voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Katherine Kinzel voted for Brown, too, but the 25-year-old researcher at the Brigham and Women's Hospital says she's open to Warren.

KATHERINE KINZEL: She seems like a genuine person. So I'm still waiting to see what she has to say, how she plays out against the other Democratic candidates, just how she turns out to be a candidate, because there's still a long way to go.

THYS: The primary is a year away, and six other Democrats are running. A recent poll for WBUR found that Warren does better than other candidates against Scott Brown. But Brown remains the most popular politician in the state. For NPR News, I'm Fred Thys in Boston.

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