SALEM — The hoopla surrounding one of the most closely followed U.S. Senate races in the country came to Salem yesterday, as Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren swept into Salem State University's Marsh Hall amid a flurry of flashbulbs, handshakes and a hug from Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.
Warren is locked in a tight race against incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown, and the two are raising and spending money at a furious pace, while each crisscrosses the state seeking support.
Warren, Driscoll, state Rep. John Keenan and University President Patricia Meservey bantered lightly before Warren ventured off to shake hands with students, chat about their experiences and their loans, and lobby for their support.
"Get on our mailing list," Warren told one student as he finished his lunch. "I need your vote; I need them all."
When it was time for the national and regional media to take their turn with Warren, it took mere seconds for the smiling and handshaking to turn to the controversy that has dogged Warren this week, ever since it was revealed that Harvard University listed her as a minority professor and that she had listed herself as a Native American in a directory of law professors compiled by the Association of American Law Schools.
Is she a Native American? Did her minority status gain a fair advantage?
Warren repeated herself repeatedly.
"I am proud of my family. I am proud of my heritage. ... I have worked hard my whole life to get everything I have," she told a gaggle of reporters after each question. "I am here at Salem State right now trying to talk about what is happening to the American middle class, and Washington would rather talk about anything else."
In a light moment after the national media and television crews had left, she laughed when asked if she was exasperated by the unrelenting line of questioning, and if the spotlight of a statewide election — her first — is harder to deal with than she had thought.