, Gloucester, MA

January 31, 2013

'Mo' Cowan named to take interim U.S. Senate seat

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service

---- — 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.

“The best strategy here and the best case scenario is a balanced approach to this,” Cowan said.

Calling Cowan a “trusted advisor, professional colleague and friend for a very long time,” Patrick lauded Cowan’s professional qualities and demeanor.

Cowan, 43, lives in Stoughton with his wife and two sons, ages eight and four. A native of North Carolina, he graduated from Duke University and Northeastern University Law School. Before joining the administration in 2009, Cowan was a partner at Mintz Levin in Boston practicing civil litigation.

Since taking over for Arthur Bernard as chief of staff in January 2011, Cowan has helped lead the administration through a shakeup of the parole board following a controversy over the shooting death of a Woburn police officer and passage of a major reforms to the health care system currently being implemented.

Cowan will serve in the U.S. Senate alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren until late June when a special election will be held to fill the remainder of Kerry’s term through 2014.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, a veteran of scores of Congressional policy battles, had hoped to be named interim senator by Patrick. With Cowan partnering with Warren, Massachusetts will be exceptionally short on experience in the Senate in the coming months.

The governor Wednesday also formally set the date of the special election for June 25, with party primaries to be held on April 30.

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Malden, is the only candidate in the race so far, but U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) is expected to announce his intention to run for the Senate today. On the Republican side, former Sen. Scott Brown has been quiet about whether he plans to run again for the third time since his surprise victory over Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2010.

State Senate President Therese Murray congratulated Cowan Wednesday and said she hoped one day he would run for elected office. Patrick has said his preference would be that the interim senator not run in the special election, but it was not immediately clear whether Cowan had agreed to that condition.

“Mo Cowan is the perfect choice,” Murray said in a prepared statement. “He is the consummate professional with a great background and a spotless reputation. Mo is cool under pressure, and he is liked and respected by everyone who knows him. In fact, he would have been a great candidate to run in the upcoming special election. As the interim senator, I am confident in his ability to carry our needs and concerns on Capitol Hill. I wish Mo the best of luck and hope that in the future he will consider running for an elected office.”

The governor’s office also released statements of support for Cowan from UMass Boston Chancellor Keith Motley, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, former Governor’s Councilor Thomas Merrigan and Republican state Rep. Daniel Winslow.

“Mo personifies the dignity, intelligence and calm judgment that we hope are qualities of all members of the US Senate. He has the ability to work across the aisle, which is sorely needed in Washington, DC. Congratulations to Senator-designate Cowan and congratulations to all citizens of Massachusetts who will be served by him in the coming months,” Winslow said in a statement.

Rep. George Peterson, a Grafton Republican and assistant minority leader, called Patrick’s pick of Cowan “fine.”

“It’s the governor’s choice. He’s made the decision. That’s fine. It’s going to be temporary,” Peterson said. “We’re probably going to be working on a resolution to say that you can’t run for the office as well as stay out of any political activity for the upcoming seat.”