Elizabeth Warren Finally Opens Up About Her Family


elizabeth warrenElizabeth Warren photo by Mystery Pill on Flickr

With less than two weeks left of her Senate campaign, Elizabeth Warren did something she’s been hesitant to do for much of her time on the campaign trail: Open up about her family. The Globe this morning has a story detailing Warren’s personal and family life, noting her challenges raising her children while finishing law school, her divorce from her first husband, Jim Warren, and her relationship with her current husband, Bruce Mann, which involved long-distance travel as the two academics sought to sync up their careers. The piece points out that Warren has been hesitant to bring her family into politics, quoting former Lowell mayor Rita Mercier’s recent quip at a Scott Brown campaign event: “I didn’t even know if she had a family, because I didn’t know where they were.” (I experienced as much earlier in the campaign, when my requests to speak with her husband and grown children were denied by her team.)

If it seems odd that it would take so long for this narrative to emerge from the campaign. It’s a reminder that for much of her candidacy, the word “family” has been fraught—and closely tied to questions about Warren’s heritage. So it’s relief to see a more well-rounded portrait of Warren develop, even if it is rather late in the game. It’s a sign that she’s maturing as a politician, and becoming more comfortable with being in the public eye.

“Every new candidate has a new learning curve, and has to learn how to be a candidate,” says Barbara Lee, whose Massachusetts-based eponymous foundation works to help female candidates of all political stripes. Notably, Lee notes that “women consistently hold an advantage over men when it comes to honesty and ethics, and [their opponents] will try to wage attacks on them early in the campaigns.” (Sound familiar?) Lee’s research has also found that that “women can be 360 degree candidates and use all parts of their life to connect with voters. They want candidates who are in touch with real life.”

Some of Warren’s most powerful hits against Brown in the debates haven’t been on economic policy issues, which are her strong suit, but social issues, particularly ones that impact women. Her “bad votes for women” line in the Springfield debate left Brown looking a bit stunned at the podium. And that’s also helped push her to a 13 percent lead among women in the latest WBUR poll, released yesterday. It’s not very often that you get to watch a politician start their career from scratch. But as Warren continues to become more comfortable as a candidate, and willing to share who she is, it will help her connect to voters and may make the difference in November.