LAWRENCE, Massachusetts – Vowing to “fight my heart out,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Saturday formally declared her candidacy for president.
The populist Democratic senator, who was re-elected in November to a second term representing Massachusetts, pushed her progressive platform as she told her life story of growing up “on the ragged edge of the middle class” and spotlighted her efforts on behalf of working class Americans.
But Warren made no mention of the swirling controversy over her longstanding claims of Native American heritage, which resurfaced over the last week and served as a major distraction as the senator geared up for her much anticipated official campaign launch.
“This is the fight our lives. The fight to build an America were dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone. I am in that fight all the way. And that is why I stand here today to declare that I am a candidate for president of the United States,” Warren said in this working class city that sits along the Merrimack River in northern Massachusetts.
Warren promised to fight so “that every kid in America can have the same opportunity I had - a fighting chance to build something real.”
Warren spotlighted her upbringing in Oklahoma, saying “when my daddy had a heart attack, my family nearly tumbled over the financial cliff.”
But as expected, she didn’t say a word about her claims of Native American ancestry, which first surfaced during her 2012 victory over then-Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
Her October release of a DNA test, meant to bolster her longstanding claims in hopes of settling the controversy before she launched a presidential bid, was widely panned. The move was intended to rebut Trump’s controversial taunts of Warren as “Pocahontas.” Instead, her use of a genetic test to prove ethnicity spurred controversy that seemed to blunt any argument she sought to make.
The taking of the DNA test also angered some tribal leaders of the Cherokee Nation, which resulted in an apology by Warren to the tribe last week. And she apologized again in the last couple of days after the surfacing of a 1986 registration card for the Texas state bar showed that she had written “American Indian” as her race. The inability to put the controversy to rest has proved to be a distraction to Warren, taking her off message in the days leading up to her presidential announcement.
Warren supporter Joy Wieder of Acton, who traveled 30 miles to see the senator announce her candidacy, said the Native American controversy “bothers me but I think there have been worse sins by politicians and I think that her strengths outweigh what her questionable actions in the past have been.”
Another Warren supporter, Alissa Onigman of Reading, said she doesn’t care about the stories. But she added that “I think it’s a distraction technique” used by the senator’s opponents.
The historic Everett Mills, where Warren declared her candidacy, was the site of the two-month long Bread and Roses strike in 1912, when textile workers protested a cut in pay implemented after a shortening of the workweek for women.
Speaking in front of the massive textile mill buildings on a windy and chilly winter day, Warren told the crowd –estimated at 3,500 by the campaign - that “the textile workers here in Lawrence more than 100 years ago won their fight because they refused to be divided. Today, we gather on those same streets, ready to stand united again.”
Touting that she’s “been in this fight for a long time,” Warren argued that “the rules in our country have been rigged” against women, African Americans and Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, people with disabilities black Americans
And she highlighted that “the rules of our economy have gotten rigged so far in favor of the rich and powerful that everyone else is at risk of being left behind.”
“Rich guys have been waging class warfare against hard working people for decades. I say it’s time to fight back,” she emphasized.
Warren spotlighted her push for government investments in child care, college, infrastructure, clean energy and the Green New Deal. She advocated for the proposed big government Medicare for All program, and for criminal justice reform. The senator also vowed to fight for voting rights and repeated her pledge to refuse to accept contributions from federal lobbyists and political action committees (PACs).
She didn’t mention by name Republican President Donald Trump. But she criticized the president, saying “the man in the White House is not the cause of what’s broken, he’s just the latest and most extreme symptom of what’s gone wrong in America.”
President Trump's 2020 campaign called her a "fraud" minutes before she made her announcement.
"Elizabeth Warren has already been exposed as a fraud by the Native Americans she impersonated and disrespected to advance her professional career, and the people of Massachusetts she deceived to get elected," campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. "The American people will reject her dishonest campaign and socialist ideas like the Green New Deal, that will raise taxes, kill jobs and crush America's middle-class. Only under President Trump's leadership will America continue to grow safer, secure and more prosperous."
The senator was introduced and endorsed by Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, a rising star in the Democratic Party. And she was also backed by the Bay State’s other senator, veteran Democrat Ed Markey, who also spoke at the rally.
Warren formally enters a Democratic field that’s shaping up as the most crowded in decades, a field that includes some of her Senate colleagues. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey have already declared their candidacies, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York launched an exploratory committee. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota’s expected to jump into the race on Sunday.
Another Senate colleague and fellow populist – independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – appears to be moving towards making a second straight run for the Democratic nomination.
Also in the race are former San Antonio, Texas mayor and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas are seriously mulling White House runs, as are Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, billionaire media mogul and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Rep. Eric Swalwell of California.
After her announcement in Lawrence, Warren beelined for neighboring New Hampshire, where she’ll hold an organizing event in Dover, a working class city and Democratic stronghold located along the border with Maine. The first in the nation primary-state is considered a ‘must win’ for the senator. Warren campaigns Sunday in Iowa - which votes first in the White House race - holding events in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Davenport.
Warren’s kick-off tour also takes her to South Carolina, which holds the first southern primary, and Nevada, which holds the first western contest, as well as Georgia and California.