WASHINGTON – William “Mo” Cowan was sworn in as the interim senator from Massachusetts on Thursday, taking the oath of office from Vice President Joe Biden after being escorted by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and the man Cowan replaced, Secretary of State John Kerry.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick tapped Cowan as a temporary replacement for Kerry’s seat last week after the 28-year Senate veteran was confirmed to head the State Department. Cowan took his oath on the Senate floor -- left hand on his grandmother’s Bible -- before moving to the old Senate chambers for a ceremonial swearing-in with his family.
“Days like today are like what my mother spoke of as a kid,” Cowen said afterward, joking, “It’s like starting at a new school in the middle of a semester.”
Cowan will join the freshman Warren on the Massachusetts delegation, which is now the least-experienced in the country. After being sworn in, the 43-year-old Cowan repeated that he will not run in the June 25 special election for Kerry’s Senate seat.
“I’m not here to make a mark,” he said in the lobby of the Hart Senate Office Building. “I’m just here to do the work that’s required.”
Cowan’s wife, Stacy, and their sons, 8-year-old Miles and 4-year-old Grant, looked on from the Senate gallery as he took his oath. Mother Cynthia Cowan also joined extended family members and friends from Massachusetts to Alabama, aides said.
The appointment came despite public lobbying for the position by longtime Representative Barney Frank, who asked Patrick for the appointment on grounds that he had the political clout to help navigate the Senate through deficit reduction and fiscal cliff battles.
Instead, Patrick picked a close confidant and protégé who “has been a valued ally to me and our work on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth,” the Bay State governor said at a news conference. “In every step, he has brought preparation, perspective, wisdom, sound judgment, and clarity of purpose.”
Cowan will cosponsor the Violence Against Women Act as his first official legislative action today, aides said. He’ll also send a joint letter this afternoon from the Massachusetts delegation to Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, asking for support for Northeast fishermen.
Hailing from humble North Carolina roots, Cowan rose to the top of Boston legal circles before joining Patrick’s staff in 2009 as legal counsel and then chief of staff.
He is the first African-American senator from Massachusetts since Edward M. Brooke in 1978 and now one of two in the current Senate. South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, the only other African-American senator, welcomed Cowan on the chamber floor after he was sworn in with a handshake and a smile.