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January 31, 2013

Patrick taps 'trusted adviser' as interim US senator

Cowan says political career will be a temporary one

BOSTON — As William “Mo” Cowan prepares to step out from behind Gov. Deval Patrick to become the interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts, the North Carolina native yesterday said there will be no “daylight” between him and the governor on key federal issues impacting the state.

“I know the people of Massachusetts care about jobs, education; affordable, high-quality health care, and I will work with those interests in mind every day just as you do every day in your administration,” Cowan said during an introductory press conference just outside Patrick’s office.

With looming federal budget cuts that could be triggered in March without a broader deal to reduce the deficit from Congress, Cowan said a blend of spending reductions and new revenue are the preferred solution to limit the impact of those cuts, including reductions in defense spending that would hit the state economy particularly hard.

“The best strategy here and the best-case scenario is a balanced approach to this,” Cowan said.

Patrick tapped Cowan, his former chief of staff and legal counsel, to fill the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who was confirmed on Tuesday to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Cowan will hold the post until a special election scheduled by the governor for June 25.

The selection comes at the expense of someone with more legislative experience in former Rep. Barney Frank, who had sought the post. In picking Cowan, Patrick ensured the Senate seat would be kept warm by a “friend” and close adviser who shares his philosophy on government and can advocate for his administration’s priorities in Congress.

Thrust into the spotlight after years of serving as a behind-the-scenes negotiator and confidant to Patrick, Cowan said he has no designs on a future political career, and will return to the private sector when his stint in the Senate ends. “This is going to be a very short political career,” Cowan said, adding that he is “not a candidate now or any time in the future.”

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