BOSTON (AP) -- Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren won the backing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Friday as incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown ramped up his criticism of Warren’s legal work in an asbestos case.
Menino, a Democrat, made the endorsement Friday afternoon at a Warren rally in the city’s Roslindale neighborhood. Menino said he held off announcing his decision until now because he wanted to take time to get to know Warren and her positions better.
"I got to know Elizabeth Warren and now Elizabeth Warren, she’s got my vote, she’s got my help," said Menino, who as the longtime mayor of the state’s largest city has a formidable political organization.
Menino said he was impressed by Warren’s support of jobs bills and her work to create a federal consumer protection bureau. He said he likes Brown, but said he was "wishy washy" on jobs, housing protection and other issues.
Brown has also courted the backing of Democratic officials. Menino’s predecessor in the mayor’s office, Democrat Ray Flynn, has endorsed Brown.
Several hundred backers of Warren, including many union members, attended the rally.
"We’re going to hit the streets tomorrow," Menino said.
Warren said she was honored to have Menino’s support.
The endorsement came a day after Warren and Brown squared off for their first debate.
The Republican has raised the issue before, including during Thursday night’s debate. Warren has said her role was that of a consultant in the case involving a mining company and that she defended the use of trust funds to ensure that all asbestos victims would be paid.
"You see, Professor Warren is not just a Harvard professor," Brown said at a news conference at his campaign headquarters Friday. "She is also a hired gun, and in the case of Travelers Insurance -- she was hired to get them off the hook for settlements sought by victims of asbestos poisoning."
Brown said the case undermines the Democratic campaign’s claim that Warren, who helped create a federal consumer protection agency after the Wall Street meltdown, always stands up for workers over big corporations.
The Warren campaign struck back quickly on Friday, making available David McMorris, a lawyer who represented asbestos victims in the case. He strongly defended Warren’s role and accused Brown of launching an unfair attack.
"It’s a completely dishonest, misleading, and I would say intentionally misleading ploy by Senator Brown, and it’s really shameful," said McMorris, who was joined by a representative of the asbestos workers union.
Brown’s campaign retorted that McMorris was a major Democratic donor who has contributed to Sen. John Kerry and President Barack Obama, among others.
Warren, a bankruptcy expert, argued in the 2009 Supreme Court case that Travelers should be protected from future lawsuits from victims because such suits would prevent similar trusts from being created, making impossible for all victims to be paid. Such trusts shorten the time for victims to receive payments and allow future victims to be compensated, not just the first to sue, Warren maintains.
Brown argued that in this case, asbestos victims were forced to settle for lifetime payments totaling a fraction of what Warren received as a "high-powered" attorney in the case.
Warren did not respond directly to the issue when Brown raised it during the debate, but later told reporters that an important legal principal had been at stake in the case and that she would do the same again.
The Democrat has disclosed the payments from Travelers and a legal firm representing the company in previous federal financial disclosure reports.