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Patrick Keeps Politics Out With Cowan As Interim Senate Pick

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Governor Deval Patrick's appointment of his former chief of staff and chief legal counsel William "Mo" Cowan as interim Senator to fill John Kerry's seat was met with a collective "Who?" by many Bay Staters, but political observers said the pick was a wise one ahead of what looks to be a contested special election later this year.

"Mo's service on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger Commonwealth for the next generation has earned him the respect and admiration of people throughout government," said Patrick in a statement. "The people of the Commonwealth have benefited from his wisdom and good judgment during his time in our office, and will again in the Senate."

Cowan left Patrick's administration late last year in order to return to the private sector. Prior to joining the administration as chief legal counsel in 2009, Cowan a civil litigator, working first as an associate and later a partner in the Boston office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC and as a Special Assistant District Attorney in the Office of the Middlesex County District Attorney.

The North Carolina native has never held elected office, and said he has no intentions of seeking public office now or in the future beyond his interim appointment.

"This is going to be a very short political career," Cowan said at a press conference Wednesday morning where Patrick formally announced his appointment.

Patrick had a long list of potential interims to choose from, the most visible of which may have been former U.S. Representative Barney Frank who publicly spoke of his desire to take on the seat following Kerry's confirmation as Secretary of State of President Obama's second term.

"There were other very capable candidates on the list," Patrick said. "I'm confident that this is the right and best choice for us."

Cowan said there will be no daylight between his political positions and those espoused by Patrick and Kerry, adding that he will have the benefit of Kerry's staff in both the Commonwealth and Washington and is looking forward to working with newly-minted Senator Elizabeth Warren.

"The governor appointed the perfect caretaker who will serve the interests of Massachusetts but not be a contender for the upcoming special election," said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Clark University professor of Political Science Robert Boatright said that Patrick's decision to go with a competent interim with no greater political ambitions was in keeping with his appointment following the death of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

"I think it is interesting in that he ignored the lobbying for Barney Frank and he also passed on choosing someone like Dukakis or John Olver, people who have some prior history in elective office," Boatright said. "I suspect Patrick wanted to assert his independence and make certain that the appointee is neither a distraction from the special election race nor a retiring politician getting some sort of reward."

Neither West nor Boatright thought Cowan's appointment would have any larger impact on the Senate special election scheduled for June 25th.

U.S. Representative Edward Markey is the only candidate from either party to formally announce a run for the seat, but his fellow Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch, who is also mulling a run, is expected to announce a decision on Thursday.

On the Republican side, former Senator Scott Brown is widely seen as the leading candidate, but he has yet to reveal his intentions publicly. A formal announcement from Brown is expected early next week.


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