Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has appointed one of his senior advisers, Mo Cowan, as John Kerry’s interim replacement in the United States Senate, meaning that two African-Americans will serve in that chamber simultaneously for the first time ever.
Cowan is expected to serve in the Senate until June 25, when a special election will be held to replace Kerry, who was confirmed this week as secretary of state. The longtime Patrick adviser says he will not run for the seat himself, as Patrick had been looking to appoint a Democrat who would serve as a caretaker while others campaign to permanently replace Kerry.
“I am not running for office,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The appointment will make Cowan, 43, the eighth African-American ever to hold a U.S. Senate seat. He and South Carolina Republican Tim Scott,who was appointed to fill a Senate vacancy in December, will make history by serving together.
The Cowan pick is something of a surprise. The North Carolina native had not been among the names floated as a potential replacement. But he is a logical choice, having served in Patrick’s administration since 2009, first as chief counsel and then chief of staff, before stepping down from that post at the end of last year. He had stayed in the administration as a senior adviser.
And Patrick had long known and mentored Cowan before either entered politics, according to the Boston Globe.
Cowan came to Massachusetts to attend Northeastern University Law School and remained in the region as a lawyer. He served as a “talent scout” in recommending minorities to various positions, according to the Globe, even advising then-governor Mitt Romney on potential minority lawyers who should be appointed to serve as judges in the state.
Little is known about Cowan’s own views on policy, but Patrick is a close friend and ally of President Obama, so it is expected that one of of his longtime aides would embrace the president’s agenda on most issues.
The move is also notable in that Patrick, the nation’s only black governor, chose to use his own perch to add diversity to the Senate, at least briefly. He opted to pick Cowan over former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, who had been openly campaigning for the seat.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @PerryBaconJr.