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Warren Wins 96 Percent Of Delegates, Avoids Primary 05:44
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Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren greets supportive delegates after winning almost 96 percent of their votes at the state Democratic Party convention in Springfield. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)
Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren greets supportive delegates after winning almost 96 percent of their votes at the state Democratic Party convention in Springfield. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)

Elizabeth Warren has made history in her race for the U.S. Senate — winning the largest margin of delegates ever in a Massachusetts Democratic Party contest for statewide office, according to party leaders.

"Are you ready? Are you ready to take on Wall Street? Are you ready to take on Big Oil?" Warren asked cheering delegates inside the MassMutual Center in Springfield on Saturday. She had just picked up almost 96 percent of their vote, thereby avoiding a primary against immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, who would have had to capture 15 percent to be on the primary ballot.

Earlier, Warren walked part of the convention floor and greeted delegates — most in the hall wearing T-shirts and pins bearing her name. It became clear early in the day that she would sail through the vote, and also clear she views this as a moment to move past the controversy over her claim of Native American heritage. Outside, a planned Cherokee protest of her amounted to three people with signs who declined to identify themselves.

"We're out here to talk about what I've worked my heart out for 25 years," Warren told WBUR. "And that is what's happening to America's middle class, what's happening to America's working families. They've been hammered, and this is the first step in turning that around."

Supporters of DeFranco, and the feisty candidate herself, were much harder to find. But a small contingent of delegates with signs bearing her name said they were confident she'd get the 15 percent. And delegate Nancy Weinberg of Newbury said that would be good for the political process.

"I think we need a primary. I think that it's the right thing to do. It's the small 'd' democratic thing to do," Weinberg said.

But they were up against influential Democrats including former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who asked delegates to fully rally around Warren so she'd avoid the primary and be able to focus all of her attention on Scott Brown.

"I want Elizabeth Warren to come out of here with an overwhelming vote, so we can begin tomorrow to organize every one of the 2,157 precincts in the state," Dukakis said. "I don't think we need this kind of distraction, because that's what it is. This is going to be a tough race."

Gov. Deval Patrick fired up the crowd, campaigning just as much for President Obama as Warren.

"If we want to win elections in 2012, if we want to keep Barack Obama in the White House, win back our Senate seat, and move our country forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, then it is time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe!" Patrick said.

Warren, and later DeFranco, went on the attack against Brown — Warren taking a jab at him over the Native American flap as his strategy to win.

"His answer is to talk about my family and how I grew up," Warren said. "Well I say this: 'If that's all you've got, Scott Brown, I'm ready.' "

"Scott Brown has made it crystal clear about what kind of election he is going to run. He is going to make this a street fight. And we need a candidate who can take a punch and come out fighting with ideas and solutions," said DeFranco.

Then, after a drawn-out voting process — with delegates calling out their candidate of choice -- Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh announced Warren had not only won an overwhelming marjority, but 10 percent more than she needed to prevent a primary.

With Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" booming, Warren thanked supporters, thanked DeFranco for her passion and commitment to democratic values, then asked the crowd to help keep Republicans from taking control of the Senate.

Then said she's ready to debate Scott Brown.

This program aired on June 3, 2012.

Lynn Jolicoeur Twitter Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.

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