Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed his former chief of staff, William “Mo” Cowan, to replace John Kerry for five months, making him the only black member of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate.
Kerry, a Democrat whom the Senate confirmed as the next secretary of state yesterday, plans to resign his seat Feb. 1 and Cowan will fill it until a June 25 special election. A graduate of Duke University and Northeastern University Law School in Boston, Cowan is a former partner in the law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo PC. Most recently, he was a special adviser to Patrick.
“His service on the front lines in our effort to manage the worst economy in 80 years and build a better and stronger commonwealth for the next generation has given him an intimate understanding of the issues we face,” Patrick said today at a news conference at the Statehouse in Boston. He called the appointment an “affirmation of the American dream.”
Cowan, 43, said there would be “no daylight” between his policies and those of Kerry, and that he won’t run for the seat. Kerry is replacing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I’m here to do the work of Kerry,” he said. “This is a temporary assignment.”
Patrick, who had said he wanted a replacement with no ambitions to run in the special election to replace Kerry, passed over former U.S. Representative Barney Frank, who had said he was interested in the job. The governor has set the June vote to fill the remainder of Kerry’s term, which ends in about two years.
Candidates are already jockeying for a shot at the job. U.S. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from suburban Malden, has announced his candidacy, set up a campaign website and hired aides. His colleague and fellow Democrat, Representative Stephen Lynch from Boston, is set to announce his intentions at an event in the city tomorrow, he told reporters this week. A primary election is set for April 30.
On the Republican side, former Senator Scott Brown, who won a 2010 special election to fill out Ted Kennedy’s last term, may run. Brown, 53, was defeated for a full term by Democrat Elizabeth Warren in November. He hasn’t said publicly what he intends to do. Other potential candidates have said they are waiting for Brown’s decision.
Massachusetts state law requires the governor to call a special election to permanently fill a vacated Senate seat. A change after Kennedy’s death in 2009 allowed Patrick to name an appointee to fill the position during the interim.
At today’s news briefing, Cowan spoke of his mother, a North Carolina native who didn’t go to college and was widowed when he was a teenager.
“She is a child of the segregated South,” Cowan said. “My mother told me days like today were possible. If you work hard and treat people with respect, there is very little you cannot achieve.”
Cowan is the second black senator from the Bay State. Edward Brooke, a Republican, served from 1967 to 1979, according to Senate records. South Carolina Republican Tim Scott is the chamber’s only other black member.
The announcement makes Cowan a senator-designate. He will assume the official title when Kerry’s resignation goes into effect at 4 p.m. Feb. 1.
In order to cast votes and appear on the Senate floor, Cowan will have to wait until he is sworn in by Vice President Joseph Biden, which might not happen until late next week, said Brendan Ryan, Patrick’s chief of staff.