BOSTON — William “Mo” Cowan, the governor’s former chief of staff and one-time chief legal counsel, was named Wednesday by Gov. Deval Patrick to become the state’s interim United States senator, temporarily replacing John Kerry who was confirmed Tuesday as the country’s next secretary of state.
In choosing Cowan, Patrick has tapped a close confidant and long-time advisor who has been at his side for major policy battles on Beacon Hill in recent years.
He also brushed aside a push by just-retired Congressman Barney Frank, who had openly sought the appointment and whose bid for the post had drawn extensive support from Gloucester, New Bedford and other advocates of the beleaguered fishing industry.
Cowan announced in November that he planned to resign as chief of staff this month to return to the private sector. Though he stepped aside the first week in January for new chief of staff Brendan Ryan to take over, Cowan has remained on in the administration as a senior advisor to the governor and planned to stay on through the month of January to help with the release and rollout of the governor’s budget.
In taking the oath of office, Cowan also became the first African-American senator from Massachusetts since Republican Edward Brooke held the position for two terms from 1967 to 1979 when he was defeated by the late Sen. Paul Tsongas.
“I know the people of Massachusetts care about jobs, education, affordable high quality health care, and I will work with those interests in mind every day just as you do every day in your administration,” Cowan said during an introductory press conference just outside Patrick’s office.
With looming federal budget cuts that could be triggered in March without a broader deal to reduce the deficit from Congress, Cowan said a blend of spending reductions and new revenue are the preferred solution to limit the impact of those cuts, including reductions in defense spending that would hit the state economy particularly hard.