BOSTON, Mass.—Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino ended months of speculation Friday with an endorsement of Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren in her campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown. Looking out over a swollen crowd of cheering Warren supporters in Roslindale, Menino enthusiastically declared that Warren had his vote and full support.
“Elizabeth gets my appreciation every time she defends universal health care in ways that would make Teddy proud. And when she says government investment backs schools and hospitals and start-ups and starting over,” Menino said, referencing longtime U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56. “I got to know Elizabeth Warren, and now Elizabeth Warren’s got my vote, and she’s got my help.”
Political experts are already calling Menino’s much sought after endorsement a potential race-altering victory for Warren. As her campaign vies for the support of Boston’s union and socially-conservative voters, many of whom backed Brown two years ago, the endorsement of the popular pro-labor mayor could all but guarantee that support and bring much of the Boston electorate with it.
“As far as his affect on the race, it could be very significant. If he really puts his full organization behind her and they pull out all the stops to help her, that could make the difference in a close election,” Republican strategist Todd Domke said.
Menino’s backing has become viewed as something of a key to victory for politicians hoping to win in Massachusetts in recent years. Former Boston City Councillor Lawrence S. DiCara ’71 said the mayor’s organizational prowess and vast network of supporters make him an ideal ally for any campaign.
“This is for real. I think you will see the troops out there. What that means [is] that Elizabeth can turn some attention, redirect her field elsewhere,” DiCara said, while Menino takes care of Boston.
Menino, a Democrat, had been criticized by prominent members of his party prior to Friday’s endorsement for declining to takes sides in the highly contested race for Massachusetts junior U.S. Senate seat. Speculators pointed to the mayor’s close friendship with Brown as the likely hang-up in endorsing either candidate, suggesting the mayor’s prolonged silence was a de facto endorsement of Brown.
“I know Senator Brown. I like Senator Brown. But we disagree about some very basic, very important things. I think government should be in the business of helping people,” Menino told the crowd. That means creating jobs, protecting families from foreclosure, funding federal research for hospitals and universities, he added.
“Elizabeth got my approval when she backed the president’s job bills last fall. They would have supported thousands of jobs in Boston, but Scott Brown voted against all three,” Menino said.
The decision to hold Friday’s rally in Roslindale was symbolic as well as strategic for the Warren campaign. The southwest Boston neighborhood helped launch then-city councillor Menino to the mayor’s office 20 years ago. But Menino was also integral in helping to revive the neighborhood during the 1980s and 90s. In this political round, these neighborhoods will serve as a political litmus test to see whether Warren can win back some of the socially-conservative, working Democrats who backed Brown in 2010.
Though the supporters gathered in the small park here ranged from Warren die-hards to skeptical converts, the afternoon was unified under a marked pro-labor and pro-union sentiment. Union leaders representing healthcare and electrical workers spoke in advance of Menino and Warren.
“It's time for people to stand up and not believe that act. [Brown] believes in corporations, not people. It's time to realize the pendulum has swung way too far, and we're not taking it anymore,” International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers representative Michael Monahan told the crowd.
In the crowd, union carpenters, plumbers, and health care workers, among others, held signs and shouted out support for the Democratic leaders.
“She's for the working family, for union workers,” said John Flaherty, a union plumber. “We feel she's for us, so we're going to back her 100 percent.”
Though Brown seemed promising two years ago, Flaherty said, he failed to get the job done in Washington, backing corporate interests over the working man.
Billy Connely, a union carpenter, said that the only issue he cares about in the November election is jobs, and that he believes Warren is the best candidate to help create them. “Work, generating work. Keeping the working class working, that's about it,” he said.
Brown’s campaign has been just as active in courting working and middle class independents, holding numerous events in South Boston and other more socially conservative neighborhoods here. Jobs and the economy are often the focus of Brown advertising as well.
—Staff Writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at email@example.com.