During a progressive conference held in Detroit this July, a story of unrequited love began to play out in the media. Liberal activists had packed into a ballroom, feverishly anticipating the entrance of the star speaker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Among the crowd were members of a newly formed super PAC called Ready for Warren. Though the senator had repeatedly stated that she would not be seeking the highest office in the land come 2016, they still passed out paraphernalia that read “Elizabeth Warren for president” and chanted, “Run, Liz, run!” When the senator took the stage, she was not amused. “Sit down, people,” she said.
Since then, not much has changed. The more Warren’s fans have urged her to run, the more she seems to pull away. On Aug. 22, Warren’s legal counsel wrote a letter to the Federal Election Commission stating that not only does the senator disavow the super PAC, but she also has no plans to run for president. Three days later, the PAC, undeterred, pledged to “continue full-steam ahead.”
Warren’s wannabe paramours appear to be comically delusional. But Erica Sagrans, the PAC’s 31-year-old founder and former Obama campaign operative, insists this isn’t the case. “Elizabeth Warren embodies many of the values we do: working families and people who are struggling. She’s inspired a lot of us,” says Sagrans, who declined to reveal how much money her PAC has raised. “I believe she’s not currently running, but I don’t think she’s ruled it out yet, either. There’s a huge hunger out there for Warren.”
A few thousand volunteers have joined Sagrans in her mission, forming a group that includes both young D.C. strivers and middle-aged folks. One such volunteer is Bruce Fealk, a retired small-business owner in his 60s. Fealk approached Warren during the conference in Detroit. She was signing copies of her new book, A Fighting Chance. “I got on my hands and knees and begged her to run,” he recalls. He had read she loves Mounds candy bars and thought he might bribe her with chocolate. “Unfortunately, the bars got a little mushy,” he says.
Fortunately, Fealk also wrote Warren a letter. “I am writing to basically BEG you to run,” it reads. “Hillary IS NOT the answer to this country’s problems. YOU ARE.”
A month later, Warren is no closer to running for president. But Sagrans believes that can change–with a nudge from supporters.
“It’s not our role to generate enthusiasm for Warren,” she says. “That already exists. It’s more about organizing enthusiasm.”