WASHINGTON -- Even before formally entering the Massachusetts Senate race, consumer advocate and Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren has picked up a major union endorsement.
The former Obama administration official who spearheaded the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, received the unsolicited backing of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) on Tuesday. The endorsement came before Warren, a Democrat, has said whether or not she will actually challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) for his seat. (Her announcement will come after Labor Day, advisers say, though it's widely expected that she will decide to run.) Announced just minutes after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast, the MNA's decision was barely noticed by the political press.
And yet, the union's endorsement could have ripple effects on the Democratic primary in that critical Senate race. The union has 23,000 members, making it the largest association of registered nurses in the state. By coming out in favor of Warren before she announces her decision, a union official explained, members are "hoping it will show her up front what kind of support she has and encourage her to jump in."
It also signals to the rest of the primary field, which includes Newton Mayor Setti Warren, social entrepreneur Alan Khazei and State Representative Thomas Conroy, that the consumer advocate -- despite her political inexperience -- could present a formidable opponent.
The MNA's board decided to endorse Warren last Thursday, the official said, after a meeting in which attendees discussed her prospective candidacy at length. (Warren had launched an exploratory committee earlier that day.)
"We had no conversation with her prior to then," the official said. "The only contact we had with her was after the fact."