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In rocky campaign event, Elizabeth Warren signals focus on Democrats’ 2024 agenda as she runs for third term

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds her first town hall event of her 2024 re-election campaign at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Days after a Texas judge’s decision to invalidate a form of abortion medication, Elizabeth Warren stood on the steps of the Massachusetts State House and declared, “Roe will be on the ballot in 2024.”

Warren will also be on the ballot in 2024, running for a third Senate term just two years after her failed presidential bid. Her rallying cry on the State House steps signaled that the role she’ll play this campaign cycle is far from that of a traditional candidate wooing constituents to keep her job. With scant competition at home and a national profile, Warren appears poised to continue pushing the party leftward, her own reelection campaign offering another platform from which to work at molding the Democratic agenda.


“Elizabeth Warren has always been a canary in a coal mine,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, the president of Reproductive Equity Now, who stood alongside Warren at the State House rally Monday. “She’s going to shape the playbook for 2024.”

Warren’s first town hall of her reelection campaign, a rocky event in Roxbury disrupted by a series of hecklers, nonetheless previewed the themes the senior senator from Massachusetts will emphasize in the months ahead, including an unabashed defense of abortion rights.

On stage, Warren spoke emphatically about “unrigging” the system to make child care more affordable, force corporations to pay more in taxes, improve access to higher education, and protect a person’s right to an abortion. She positioned herself not only as a champion for Massachusetts residents, but also as a voice at the forefront of national fights.

”Unrigging the system means unrigging it in all directions,” said Warren. “And that means women get to make their own health care decisions.”

The hecklers — four in total — were removed from the crowd during Warren’s speech as supporters cheered the senator on. Later on, two attendees interrupted the question-and-answer portion of the event and continued to speak out as Warren took selfies with attendees and spoke to reporters.


“This is democracy,” Warren observed to reporters gathered around her after the event, as one man approached and began to raise his voice.

Warren announced her third-term bid last month via a video, where she touted legislative accomplishments like over-the-counter hearing aids and a corporate minimum tax. The video, which featured cameos from leaders like Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley (who also joined Warren, along with Governor Maura Healey, on Wednesday), set out a progressive vision for the next six years.

And despite what is widely expected to be a frictionless reelection campaign, Warren leaves little doubt that she’ll continue to flex her influence. She’s made public appearances at rallies and on TV, written strongly worded op-eds, and waded into heated 2022 primary races with endorsements of progressive candidates across the country. More recently, she agreed to serve as an adviser for President Biden’s likely reelection bid.

She also lacks serious opposition. The Massachusetts Republican party is digging itself out from a mountain of debt and a period of messy infighting, and many of the state’s promising Democrats eyed as potential primary challengers to Warren instead appeared in her reelection announcement video and on her town hall stage, making it all the less likely a serious primary opponent will emerge.


As Warren walked through the crowd of roughly 350 at her first town hall of the campaign, Healey, Pressley, and Wu followed behind, dancing to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The officeholders spoke to a standing-room-only Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, where they touched on sweeping national issues like gun violence, abortion rights, student debt, and the two lawmakers who were briefly ousted from the Tennessee Legislature for leading a gun control demonstration on the House floor.

Warren’s speech touched on some of her hallmark accomplishments like corporate minimum taxes, and student loan debt relief. The through line, she noted, was “partnership.”

“The way we persuaded the president of the United States was by having you reach out, by having you raise your voices, sign petitions, send an e-mail, or talk to her neighbors to raise this as a national issues,” she said, speaking about student debt relief. “And it’s true with every change we make. It’s about people.”

She highlighted some of her trademark priorities, like funding affordable child care, housing, and higher education, and said the country needs to follow Massachusetts’ lead on abortion protections and gun control legislation.

When members of the audience interrupted the question-and-answer portion of the town hall by asking Warren to respond to how the federal government is addressing systemic racism, Wu, Warren, and Pressley passed the microphone around in an attempt to calm the crowd, speaking directly to members.

“Because I love you, I am going to level with you,” Pressley said, quieting the room. She spoke for several minutes about the Democrats’ slipping power in Congress and the struggles to advance progressive legislation.


“There is not one bill that any of us can advance that will undo centuries of harm,” she said, rousing a standing ovation. “There are people up here really trying. But I alone cannot deliver that.”

Healey was not present for the question-and-answer portion of the event.

After the town hall, Warren told reporters that while she’s focused on advancing her message, she sees part of her job as uplifting other Democrats who are working to get elected.

“I’m going to do the best I can to make real change, and that means we have of have a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and keep a Democrat in the White House,” she said.

Warren’s approach to 2024 is not a new one, watchers say, noting that the senator has long played a role influencing the party’s direction and uplifting candidates, particularly those who share her worldview. She’s credited by many for the White House’s leftward shift on student loan debt cancellation (which is still stuck in court), and has served as a mentor for some of the nation’s notable elected officials; she counts Wu, former Massachusetts representative Joseph Kennedy III, and California Representative Katie Porter among her former Harvard students.

She’s long been passionate about economic mobility for the nation’s working class, and was first introduced to the public as a steady voice during the Great Recession, years before she ran for her first term.


“Elizabeth Warren can light the world on fire again,” said longtime Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh, who noted that a comfortable race for Warren helps the Democratic Party’s larger effort to win the Senate.

“She certainly has raised her profile” since her first Senate victory, she said.

Amanda Hunter, who works to increase female representation in politics as executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, said Warren is what her organization calls “a 365-degree leader.”

Hunter recalled one of Warren’s most famous moments in the Senate, which quickly became a slogan for women during the Trump administration. “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a rallying cry derived from Republican Senator Mitch McConnell’s comments in 2017 after the US Senate voted to require Warren to stop speaking during the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as US attorney general.

“She has grown her position to become a dependable national voice.”

Samantha J. Gross can be reached at Follow her @samanthajgross.