Special election 2013 has produced about what you might expect for candidates: two congressmen, a former state representative/DA/U.S. Attorney, an ambitious state representative/former judge/gubernatorial aide/party activist, and a rich guy. The field is similar to what you might find in most open seat elections, including the 2010 special election. So why no Elizabeth Warren in 2013?
As an academic Warren became most well-known for her work on bankruptcy law. She was the force behind the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but she had proven so threatening to the nation’s financial interests (major funders of Republicans and Democrats) that the arm of Wall Street known as the Senate Republican Caucus blocked President Obama from even nominating her as head of CFPB. Oh, and Warren is a woman, and Massachusetts had never elected a woman to such high office.
She had a cause though, and the credibility to be recognized as a force on it: the rapaciousness of Wall Street, its devastating impact on the middle class, and the subservient posture of the political establishment.
Republicans don’t beat Democrats for the U.S. senate in this state but in 2010 Scott Brown did just that. He became an instant political star, his campaign coffers bulging and his personal popularity unmatched in the state. He had to defend the seat again in 2012, sure, but no Democrat of any consequence would risk a race against him. Not Capuano, Markey, Lynch, no one. My colleague Professor Duquette has a lot of faith in fundamentals that would suggest a Democratic win in most circumstances, but a Brown-Khazei race likely would have kept Democrats from exercising their full array of advantages.
Then the Senate Republicans sent Warren home, a high-profile martyr.
Warren had also earned the reputation of eviscerating Democrats whom she considered to be Wall Street apologists, including in different circumstances Senator Joe Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. She’s kept it up too, ripping into government regulators who have massaged the wrists of Wall Street bankers (slapping their wrists would be far too violent, especially if it was the wrist on the check-writing hand).
Now just head over to opensecrets.org and see how much money the finance sector has given to the Democratic Party. (But remember, correlation does not mean causation!). In most election years Elizabeth Warren might be a skunk at a garden party. But 2012 wasn’t most election years.
So all political experts who foresaw Scott Brown winning in 2010 and then a woman Harvard law professor wresting the seat from him in 2012, please step to the front. Talk about your unknown-unknowns.
There just aren’t a lot of Elizabeth Warrens around. Or maybe we’ve just regressed to the mean. In any case 2013 field is politics as usual.