Warren visits JP to mull Senate run

With one day’s notice, potential Democratic U.S. senate candidate Elizabeth Warren drew an overflow crowd of 70 people Aug. 17 at the Jamaica Plain stop on her exploratory “listening tour.”

“There were people in our dining room, our living room and on our front porch,” said longtime Democratic activist Joel Watson. Watson and his wife Henia Handler hosted the event.

She has been contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Scott Brown, and began her listening tour last week to introduce herself to Democratic Party activists and others across the state.

Warren, a Harvard professor, is credited as the mastermind behind the creation of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of a financial reform package passed in 2010. From 2008 to 2010, she chaired a congressional oversight panel that oversaw the bank-bailout program known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The event was closed to the press, but two attendees told the Gazette they were impressed with Warren.

“I was surprised at how engaging and accessible she appeared, not like a professor or a politician. She just had a lot of warmth,” said Reuben Kantor, co-chair of the group JP Progressives, which organized the event.

Kantor said she also showed a “tough side,” and focused on her differences with Brown. “She talked about Scott Brown watering down the financial reform legislation while she was fighting for consumers,” he said.

Gazette calls to Brown’s campaign office were not returned by press time.

Ed Wagner, a JP resident and head of the Ward 11 Republican Committee, said he fears that further increases in “government bureaucracy,” like those supported by Warren, could further slow down the economic recovery.

“She wants to micromanage business and consumer affairs,” he said. “Brown has a much more realistic view of how relations between government and commerce should work,” he said.

Warren has not said whether she plans to run, but she formed an exploratory committee last week, which, among other things, means that she can start taking donations. She has also retained two consultants, Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan, who helped Gov. Deval Patrick get elected in 2006.

Sullivan also served as Patrick’s communications director during the governor’s first term in office.

In an email to the Gazette, Sullivan said “a final decision on [Warren’s] future plans [is] expected after Labor Day.”

He said attendance at listening tour events across the Commonwealth have been growing since they started, and that by last weekend they were drawing over 100 people.

Watson, who co-chairs the Ward 19 Democratic Committee, told the Gazette that the Warren event was “not a fund-raiser and not an endorsement.” He said Ward 19 would be happy to host other Democratic candidates. “We would be open if someone approached us,” he said.

Other Democratic candidates for the seat include: state Rep. Thomas Conroy, who represents Wayland, Lincoln and Sudbury; City Year founder and 2010 special election Senate candidate Alan Khazei; entrepreneur Bob Massie; and Newton Mayor Setti Warren. Setti Warren is not related to Elizabeth Warren.

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