Sorry Barney, It’s Mo

Former Congressman Barney Frank is the first person I can recall who publicly lobbied to be appointed for a temporary appointment to the U.S. Senate, and it didn’t work.

Frank, who retired this month after 16 terms in the House, was one of the most outspoken, colorful, liberal and smartest people on Capitol Hill. He said he would have the advantage of being well versed on all the issues as well as the legislative process, and he wasn’t interested in running for a full term.

Instead, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named a longtime friend and former aide, William “Mo” Cowan, to fill the seat John Kerry just resigned to become secretary of state.  Cowan, a Boston lawyer, will keep the Senate seat warm until the June 25 special election.  This will be the beginning and end of his political career, Cowan said, insisting he has no political ambitions and plans to return to private life once a replacement is elected.

He will be the eighth African American senator in history and the first to represent Massachusetts since Republican Edward Brooke left in 1979. Cowan, 43, will take the seat once held by John and Ted Kennedy, and has said he would rely on Kerry’s staff and “there won’t be any daylight” between him and the work Kerry had been doing.

This will be the first time two African Americans have served in the Senate at the same time and both are appointees to fill terms of incumbents who left for another job.  Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) was named this month to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint, probably the most conservative member of the Senate, who left to run The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Scott has said he intends to be no less conservative than his predecessor.

If you like trivia, as I do, try this.  Which state has had the most African American senators?  Illinois, with three: Carol Moseley Braun, Barack Obama and Roland Burris. Mississippi had two, both during reconstruction, and Massachusetts two.  The three most recent — Burris, Scott and Cowan — were appointed.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.