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Patrick Picks Cowan for Kerry’s Seat

January 31, 2013

William Cowan will be sworn in tomorrow as the junior Senator from Massachusetts. Cowan was selected by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to replace John Kerry, who will be sworn in tomorrow as Secretary of State.

Cowan will be the country’s eighth African-American Senator, and tomorrow will be the first time in the country’s history that there have been two African-American Senators at the same time. That’s the good news, and for that reason tomorrow is a historic day. The bad news is that Americans remain strikingly unwilling to elect African-Americans to high office. Cowan was appointed, not elected, as was Tim Scott, Republican Senator from South Carolina, the only other African-American in the Senate. Of the eight African-Americans ever to serve in the United States Senate, only three were elected to their seats.

Cowan promises not to run in the special election scheduled for June 25: “This is going to be a very short political career,” he told the New York Times. By contrast, Senator Scott plans to run for election, which in his case doesn’t happen until 2014.

Cowan got his law degree from Northeastern University, which has a “cooperative” educational program – meaning that students spend almost as much time working legal jobs as they spend on classwork. Cowan’s law school jobs were in legal services and public defenders’ offices. He worked as a civil litigator at a private law firm from 1997 to 2009, after which he served two years as Governor Patrick’s counsel, then two more as his chief of staff. He left the Governor’s office just last November before Governor Patrick called him back to public service this week.

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