Governor Patrick Endorses Elizabeth Warren

Yesterday afternoon, Governor Deval Patrick joined Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in her Somerville headquarters to make an announcement before a room of grassroots supporters. “I love this candidate,” he told them to rousing cheers as he endorsed Warren’s campaign. The move, made on the tail of a tough few weeks for Warren, went against the Governor’s previous claims that he would hold off on endorsing a candidate until after the Democratic primary. The Democratic convention will be held this weekend in Springfield, and most party insiders, Patrick included, acknowledge that Warren’s challenger Marisa DeFranco will likely earn enough votes to get on the ballot, meaning Warren will have to deal with a primary race before she can focus on Scott Brown. (“She going to get on the ballot, we’re Democrats,” Patrick joked.) When asked why he decided to endorse now, he said it was “an important race … This is going to be tough. Scott Brown is an effective campaigner and we’ve got a fight on our hands.”

Indeed the race is only getting tougher for Warren, who is still fending off questions about her purported Native American heritage. Yesterday, the same day she told the Globe that she had self-identified as Native American at University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, a group of more than 150 Cherokees launched a website and Facebook page calling Warren’s claims “harmful and offensive.” The site, which claims to be apolitical, takes issue with those who feign a heritage that isn’t their own:

Ms. Warren’s ancestors were not Cherokees and neither is she. We, as Cherokees, cannot allow Ms. Warren to continue on with her false claims. If we allow someone as high profile as her to get away with it, then everyone else will expect a free pass as well.

Governor Patrick has been quick to defend Warren — comparing the controversy to the birther movement yesterday during his monthly radio program on WTKK-FM, and saying it was just another example of the right’s obsession with ancestry. When Patrick was asked by reporters about whether her claims raised questions about her character at his announcement yesterday, the audience booed. Patrick turned to the crowd: “The question is okay,” he said. “We have to project what we want in the political discussion.” Then he turned back to the podium to face the throng of cameras and reporters. “On behalf of the people of Massachusetts,” he said. “We don’t care about that subject.”

The universities where Warren was listed as a minority have said that her heritage played no part in their decision to hire her, and it seems that Warren’s intent to recognize herself as Native American was based more in pride than a underhanded effort to get ahead. Its time for Warren’s campaign to finally address the issue and acknowledge that as an Americans, our ancestry is muddled, mixed and often not what we think it is. Other politicians have done as much and moved on. “John Kerry found out that he’s wasn’t Irish, Madeline Albright found out that she was Jewish,” notes Democratic political strategist Scott Ferson. If she wants to focus on the issues, she needs to snuff out the controversy, stat.