By BOB SALSBERG and SHANNON YOUNG
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was poised to receive the endorsement of her party's state convention on Saturday, but it remained to be seen whether the Harvard Law School professor who has struggled to put behind her a controversy about her claims of Native American ancestry would still face a primary contest.
A second Democrat, immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, needs, under party rules, to get the support of at least 15 percent of the more than 3,500 delegates to the convention to qualify for the September ballot. The winner of the primary would be the party's nominee and take on incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown in November.
Addressing the delegates prior to the vote, Warren said Brown would rather attack her family than talk about his own voting record.
"Well I say this, if that's all you've got Scott Brown, I'm ready," said Warren to sustained applause.
"And let me be clear: I am not backing down. I didn't get in this race to fold up for the first time I got punched. I got in this race because people are being hammered and they are counting on me to stand up for them."
Warren, who called Brown a "Mitt Romney Republican" and a "Wall Street Republican" listed a series of votes the incumbent had made, including votes against a Democratic bill to prevent a doubling of student loan interest
She also invoked the memory of the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, who for 47 years held the seat that Brown won in a special election in 2010.
"It's a long way from Ted Kennedy to Scott Brown," said Warren.
For Warren, the gathering of party loyalists presented an opportunity to regain momentum for her campaign with recent polls still indicating a tight race with Brown.
In the days leading up to the convention, Warren made perhaps her most concerted effort to address several weeks of questions about her past listing of Native American ancestry, which she has not documented.
First, Warren acknowledged that she had told Harvard Law School and her previous employer, the University of Pennsylvania, of her Native American heritage but said she did so after she was hired and that it had never been a factor in advancing her academic career.
In a series of interviews on Friday, Warren also provided more detail about the "family lore" that had convinced her of Native American ancestry. She said her mother and father had been forced to elope because of her mother's heritage.
"My mom and dad were deeply in love," Warren, who was raised in Oklahoma, told The Associated Press. "My father wanted to marry my mother, his parents objected, because she was part-Cherokee and part-Delaware."
Warren attributed the lag in her addressing the controversy to needing more time to go back and recall details of events that had occurred decades ago.
DeFranco has little name recognition and through the first quarter of the year had raised just over $41,000 for her campaign, compared to the $15.8 million that Warren's campaign had pulled in.
She was introduced to the delegates by her husband, Kai Moy, who called her "the other candidate" for the Senate.
"For those of you who know me I don't scare easily. I have a proven track record of ... taking on long odds and winning," said DeFranco in asking for the votes of the delegates.
"Let's have a good and healthy primary and go after Scott Brown" together, she said. "We'll be stronger for it."
Democratic state party chair John Walsh told reporters prior to opening the convention that he expected DeFranco to achieve the 15 percent threshold, noting that no candidate in the 30-year history of the convention had ever received 86 percent of the vote.
"I believe the people deserve to have a choice when they go to the polls, it's not about the candidate, it's about the public," said Mary Ellen Manning, a delegate from Peabody, who was holding a DeFranco sign on the convention floor.
But other delegates, such as Tobey Sullivan, of Wellesley, said the party would be better served if it could focus solely on ousting the incumbent.
"It would be better if Warren could just walk away with it today because she'd have more time to put together a strong campaign against Scott Brown," Sullivan said.