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Consumer advocate Warren hits trail for Senate

Sep 14, 2011, 7:05 a.m.
Elizabeth Warren speaks with voters as she campaigns after announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Framingham, Massachusetts, September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Adam Hunger

By Ros Krasny

BOSTON (Reuters) - Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren hit the campaign trail on Wednesday after officially launching her bid for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts with a vow to fight for the middle class.

"Washington gives some of the biggest corporations in the world special loopholes and tax breaks, while middle-class families and small businesses struggle. This is wrong," Warren said in an e-mailed statement.

A Harvard Law School professor who created the Obama administration's new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren hopes to unseat popular Republican Scott Brown in what could be the most closely-watched Congressional race of 2012.

"Middle class families have been chipped at, hacked at, squeezed and hammered for a generation now, and I don't think Washington gets it," Warren said.

"A big company, like GE, pays nothing in taxes, and we're asking college students to take on even more debt to get an education? We're telling seniors they may need to learn to live on less? It isn't right, and it's the reason I'm running."

Warren, 62, met with commuters at a train station in South Boston early Wednesday, and will make at least six campaign stops across the state over the next two days.

A former public school and Methodist Sunday school teacher, Warren has hardscrabble roots. She grew up in Oklahoma where her father was a janitor and her family struggled during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression.

The best-selling author twice named among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential people in the World has the highest profile of Democrats vying to recapture the Senate seat held by liberal icon Edward Kennedy for more than four decades.

NO FRIEND OF WALL ST.

After the 2008 financial crisis, Warren led a panel created by Congress to examine how bank bailout money was being spent and went on to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, often locking horns with Wall Street.

She is a bankruptcy expert and has been an outspoken advocate for cracking down on abusive practices concerning credit cards and pay-day loans.

"I've stood up to some pretty powerful interests. Those interests are going to line up against this campaign," she said.

Fierce opposition from Republicans in Congress are thought to have stopped President Barack Obama from nominating Warren to run the consumer agency, and she left his administration.

Before facing Brown, Warren must defeat several Democratic opponents in a primary election in September 2012.

Brown, a former state legislator, won the Senate seat in a special election in 2010 following Kennedy's death from brain cancer in 2009. His campaign was boosted by millions of dollars from conservative groups outside the state.

A member of the Army National Guard and former Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold, Brown has spun his upset victory into a high national profile and has a sizable warchest.

Brown has staked out a position as a moderate Republican and has high approval ratings in Massachusetts. A recent survey by the MassINC polling group for WBUR radio, however, showed that Warren trailed him by just 9 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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