Warren launches US Senate campaign with Mass. tour

September 14, 2011 - 10:45 AM
Massachusetts Senate

FILE - In this April 11, 2011, file photo, Elizabeth Warren, then-assistant to the President, speaks during a summit on consumer protection by the National Association of Attorneys General in Charlotte, N.C. The consumer advocate Warren is jumping into the Massachusetts race against Republican Sen. Scott Brown. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

BOSTON (AP) — Harvard Law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren officially launched her Democratic campaign for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, hoping for a chance to take on Republican Sen. Scott Brown in next year's election.

Warren, who greeted commuters at a subway station in Boston before embarking on a tour of the state, cast herself as fighter for the middle class, saying she's "stood up to some pretty tough folks over the past few years."

"There's been a lot of very powerful interests who have tried to shut me down, squeeze me, push me sideways and so far it just hasn't worked," Warren said. "I'm willing to throw my body in front of a bus to try to stop bad ideas that are going to be harmful to the middle class."

Warren was heavily courted by Democrats hoping to win back the seat long held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Democrats are also trying to hold onto their narrow Senate majority by ousting Brown.

Warren was tapped by President Barack Obama last year to set up a new consumer protection agency, but congressional Republicans opposed her leading the office. She returned to Massachusetts this summer.

Supporters say her image as a crusader against well-heeled Wall Street interests and her national profile will give her candidacy muscle, though she's never run for political office.

Some Democrats, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, have voiced skepticism about how strong a candidate she will be, given her lack of political experience.

Warren said she knows she has to make her case in a crowded primary if she wants a chance to challenge Brown next year.

Brown political adviser Eric Fehrnstrom called Warren's entrance into the race evidence of a "crowded, long and divisive Democratic primary."

"In the meantime, people are hurting and they are looking for work. Scott Brown is going to keep his focus on creating jobs, keeping taxes low, and getting spending and debt under control," Fehrnstrom said.

Republicans have already branded Warren as a liberal academic from Cambridge whose Harvard ties put her out of touch with working families. They've also mocked her as an outsider whose roots are in Oklahoma where she grew up and not Massachusetts.

Democratic leaders are banking that her national profile will help her raise the money needed to topple Brown, who has more than $10 million in his campaign account.

A recent Boston Globe poll showed Brown as the most popular major politician in the traditionally Democratic state. Brown shocked the political establishment by beating Attorney General Martha Coakley in last year's special election to succeed Kennedy. He was a little-known state senator who cast himself as a moderate, an average guy with his trademark barn coat and pickup truck. He once posed as a Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold.

Other Democrats already announced include Setti Warren, no relation to the consumer advocate, the first-term mayor of the affluent Boston suburb of Newton and the state's first popularly elected black mayor; City Year youth program co-founder Alan Khazei; immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco; state Rep. Tom Conroy; Newton resident Herb Robinson; and Robert Massie, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 1994.

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Miga in Washington and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.