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'FDR Style' Democrat Challenges Warren in Massachusetts

8:00 AM, May 31, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren won’t get to face Scott Brown in November without a fight from a fellow Democrat.

Elizabeth Warren

Marisa DeFranco, a 41-year-old immigration lawyer from Middleton, is the last Democratic challenger to Warren standing. DeFranco, who is running for office for only the second time (she unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2001), is on track to earn a spot on the Democratic ballot at this weekend's state party convention in Springfield--but only if she can win 15 percent of the delegates--to force Warren to a primary election on September 6.

"We're confident that we're going to get 15 percent, but we aren't taking anything for granted," DeFranco says in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

As Warren's campaign has stumbled recently over the Harvard professor's questionable claims to Cherokee heritage, DeFranco and her grassroots campaign have slowly gathered more attention, including a laudatory profile in the New York Times. "We have been asking the media to pay attention to our campaign," says DeFranco. "I've been on the ground for a year and a half across the Commonwealth. I may not be a household name across the nation, but I'm a known quantity in Massachusetts."

Warren is the clear favorite of the national Democratic establishment to take on Brown this fall, and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick endorsed Warren just days before the state convention. Patrick had told the press in March 2011 that he would be staying out of the Democratic primary, perhaps suggesting the contest has received too much attention for him to simply sit this one out..

Even with establishment support, one Massachusetts Democratic party official says the party “fully expect[s]” to have a primary election.

“Since we implemented the ‘15 percent’ rule in 1984, no candidate [for statewide office] has received 86 percent of the delegates” to avoid a primary, says party communications director Kevin Franck. But while giants like Ted Kennedy received token primary opposition from several candidates each year, DeFranco would likely be Warren's only opponent.

DeFranco says her most important policy differences with Warren are on jobs.

"I'm a Democrat, and I believe in putting the federal government to work to create jobs--FDR style," DeFranco says, adding that if the government can spend billions bailing out banks, then it has the money to invest in green energy and manufacturing jobs to put people back to work. She is also critical of Warren for not supporting a single-payer health care system, which she considers a job creator of sorts.

"If you decouple employment with health care, you would see the economy flourish," DeFranco says.

DeFranco also says she would be a better general election candidate than Warren against Brown, despite her being 21 points behind Brown in a recent poll. "I'm the candidate who is going to resonate with independents because of my real world experience," DeFranco says, adding that she would make the general election a race about issues and not trying to depict Brown as a far-right-winger.

"I disagree with the strategy that we get people to hate Scott Brown," she says.

Here's more from the Times's profile of DeFranco:

Ms. DeFranco is to the left of Ms. Warren on a number of issues, including health care (she supports a single-payer system) and national security (Ms. Warren is more hawkish). She thinks Ms. Warren is too focused on the need for financial regulation — a “one-trick pony,” as Nancy Weinberg, a DeFranco supporter from Newbury, put it during a conversation here.

Ms. DeFranco tartly dismissed Ms. Warren’s recent call for Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, to resign from the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after his company revealed that it had lost at least $2 billion in bad trades. “Who’s not going to be for firing Jamie Dimon?” she said. “It’s kind of like a throwaway. Tell me what you’re going to do that’s going to change the average person’s life in Massachusetts.”

DeFranco recently criticized Warren’s response to the Native American ancestry flap and made a case that her own campaign wouldn’t be distracted by side issues:

DeFranco said she believes the fact that the controversy over Warren’s heritage has lasted for three works shows a problem with Warren’s campaign. “We need a Democratic nominee who’s able to define herself first and foremost before the Republican GOP machine comes after you and defines the candidate for her,” DeFranco said. “I will not let Scott Brown define me.” 

DeFranco said she was not taking a position on Warren’s listing of her heritage as Native American, or on what the Warren campaign’s response should have been.

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