What You Need To Know: Elizabeth Warren

The 2020 presidential race: Who is Elizabeth Warren?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is running for president, vowing to take on corporations, banks and, in some cases, the federal government itself.

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On New Year’s Eve, Warren, D-Massachusetts, announced that she had formed an exploratory committee to evaluate a run for president, becoming the highest-profile Democratic 2020 contender to do so.

Warren, who will likely be one of a crowded field of Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump, expressed her intentions to stand up for middle-class values and against abuses by corporate America in a video released by her campaign.

“America’s middle class is under attack,” Warren said in the video. “How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut ’em a fatter slice.”

While Warren’s campaign launched on New Year’s Eve with the polished video, an email blast and the image of her and her husband waving from the couple’s front yard, a misstep last fall could prove a persistent thorn in her side as the race gets heated in the months ahead.

Warren, dogged by allegations she falsely claimed to be of Native American ancestry, released the results of a DNA test she said she took in an attempt to prove her claims.

The release of the results – which showed Warren had a Native American ancestor from six to 10 generations back – was seen by many as a political miscalculation that will only end up giving her opponents ammunition against her in a future campaign.

She was also seen as giving in to taunts by Trump, who nicknamed the Massachusetts senator “Pocahontas.”

The issue arose when Warren first ran for the Senate and it was discovered that she had put herself on the Minority Law Teacher list as Native American in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools while she was at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and that Harvard Law School had identified Warren as a Native American faculty member.

Warren was asked about the results of the DNA test during a recent visit to Iowa. She told the questioner that while she was not an official citizen of a tribe, she believed the story of her heritage she grew up hearing from family members and didn’t regret taking the DNA test and releasing the results.

“I am not a person of color. I’m not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship and I respect that difference. I grew up in Oklahoma and like a lot of folks in Oklahoma, we heard the family stories of our ancestry,” Warren said.

“When I first ran for public office, the first time was in 2012 and the Republicans homed in on this part of my history and thought they could make a lot of hay out of it, a lot of racial slurs and a lot of ugly stuff that went on,” she said. “And so my decision was, we’re just going to put it all out there.”

Here are a few things you may not have known about Warren:

  • She was born in Oklahoma City in 1949. She has three brothers.
  • She was a quick student in high school and graduated when she was 16. She earned a full scholarship to George Washington University for debate. She was the first in her family to attend college.
  • She left GWU after two years marry her high school sweetheart, Jim Warren. The couple moved to Texas, where Jim Warren worked for IBM. Warren finished her degree in speech pathology at the University of Houston.
  • The couple moved to New Jersey, where Warren worked in public schools.
  • She and Jim Warren have two children, Amelia and Alex.
  • Before the mid-1990s, Warren was a registered Republican.
  • From 1978 to 1983 she was an assistant and then an associate professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
  • She began teaching law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin in 1983 and later taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
  • In 1992, she was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. She became a professor at the school in 1995.
  • She is considered an expert on bankruptcy law.
  • In 2008, she was appointed to a Congressional oversight panel overseeing the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program.
  • In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed her assistant to the president and special adviser to the treasury secretary in order to launch the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She was not nominated by Obama as permanent director of the bureau.
  • She announced she will run for the Senate from Massachusetts in 2011. She won the seat in 2012, becoming the first female U.S. senator from Massachusetts. She was re-elected in 2018. 
  • During confirmation hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general, Warren began reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter had been sent by King years before to express her opposition to Sessions’ appointment as a federal judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, stopped Warren from reading the letter, saying she was violating a rule of the Senate that prohibited senators for speaking ill of other senators on the Senate floor. Eventually, a vote of the whole Senate was taken and Warren was not silenced. McConnell explained what happened at the time by saying, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” The explanation became an instant meme for the Democrats, who said it perfectly represented their opposition to the Trump administration. Warren would go on to launch a merchandising campaign using “she persisted” as its hook. 
  • According to congressional disclosure reports, Warren's net worth is between $3.7 million and $10 million.

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