Boomerang?: Kennedy's Death
Triggers Start of Race to Succeed Him
The political implications loom large for both parties: A victory for
Republicans could begin a rebound in Congress while Democrats need to
hold onto Kennedy's seat to maintain a filibuster-proof majority.
FOXNews. August 27, 2009. With Sen. Edward Kennedy's death making
world headlines Wednesday, the race to succeed him begins in earnest --
on Thursday -- and promises to be crowded and fiercely fought.
Unlike most states where governors appoint a successor, Massachusetts
law requires a special election within 145-160 days after a Senate seat
becomes vacant, which means one must be held by January. The law bans
the governor from making an interim appointment.
The political implications loom large for both parties. Democrats in
largely liberal Massachusetts need to keep Kennedy's seat to maintain a
filibuster-proof majority in the Senate as the majority keeps on pushing
through Kennedy's signature wish for nationalized health care and
President Obama's ambitious agenda.
Republicans are hoping a victory will begin a resurgence in Congress,
though pundits say that scenario is unlikely to start in Massachusetts.
A Republican hasn't held a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1979,
when Edward Brooke was defeated by Paul Tsongas.
Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, said a
Senate election is not of any "significance" to Republicans because of
the "nature of Massachusetts politics." He noted that only 13 percent of
registered voters in the state are Republican.
"I don't think there is a Republican who can beat a Democrat," he said.
On the Republican side, potential candidates include former
Massachusetts Govs. Mitt Romney and William Weld; Massachusetts native
and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card; state Sen. Scott
Brown; Cape Cod businessman Jeff Beatty; former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey;
former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan; and Chris Egan, former U.S.
ambassador to the Organization for Cooperation and Development.
"There's not a deep bench," Berry said of the potential for an upset.
The list of interested candidates on the Democratic side is long, and
begins within Kennedy's family. Speculation has swirled that Kennedy's
wife, Vicki, is interested in the seat but family aides have said she
does not want to replace her husband either temporarily or permanently.
"I don't think anybody discounts her until she says it publicly," Berry
One of Kennedy's nephews, former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, has also
been described as interested.
Both have great name recognition, Berry said, and Joseph Kennedy "could
give a powerful and moving speech for someone to grab the torch that has
now fallen." But the downside for him, Berry said, is "he left with some
contempt for Congress and made no secret of it. He might have some
explaining to do."
Other potential Democratic candidates include Massachusetts Gov. Deval
Patrick; state Attorney General Martha Coakley; U.S. Reps. Stephen
Lynch, Michael Capuano, Edward Markey, James McGovern and William
Delahunt; and former Rep. Martin Meehan, now chancellor of the
University of Massachusetts at Lowell who was named as a possible
contender to replace Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said he will not seek the seat.
Patrick has often been named as someone possibly eyeing the now-vacant
seat, but he's lacking critical support in the state, even losing within
the margin to his 2010 gubernatorial re-election race to leading
Republican challenger Christy Mihos, according to a Rasmussen poll out
Monday. His approval rating in the poll of 500 Massachusetts voters was
at 39 percent, and he was respected least in a list of four famous
Massachusetts pols, including Kennedy, Romney and Kerry.
"I don't think he's a credible candidate," Berry said, adding that even
if he was popular, he hasn't "accomplished a great deal" in his two and
half years as governor.
In February, Coakley, who has statewide name recognition, acknowledged
that she had held a poll of voters to see if she were a viable
candidate. She told The Associated Press that she was interested in
learning about statewide issues, and if she were considering a possible
federal campaign, "If we were going to do that, we would have had to use
federal money for that."
Coakley added she had not yet established a federal campaign committee
to finance such things as federal poll questions.
"Coakley would be the favorite if no Kennedy is in the race," Berry
Money will be a big factor in who is to run, and all the congressional
members are poised for a competitive run with substantial money in the
bank. Markey has the most of all the representatives with $2.8 million
cash on hand as of June 30, according to the Center for Responsive
Politics, Frank has the least, with $403,000. Markey reportedly told
public radio on Wednesday that he hadn't thought yet about whether to go
Last week, Kennedy asked
Massachusetts leaders to change state law to give Patrick the power to
appoint an interim replacement to Kennedy's seat should Kennedy be
unable to continue serving.
"It is vital for this
commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens
and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between
a vacancy and an election," Kennedy wrote in a letter to Patrick.
Lawmakers are weighing a bill now that honors Kennedy's request.
Lawmakers are expected to hold a public hearing next month on the
proposal, moving up the consideration date from October, and allowing
legislation to be passed and signed into law before the deadline for a
But a change in the law isn't a sure bet. Senate President Therese
Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, all Democrats, have stayed mum on
whether they would support the change.
But Patrick told a local radio station Wednesday that he believes the
proposal was "entirely reasonable" and said he would sign the bill if it
reached his desk.
The state last changed its
succession law in 2004 to require the special election. Before that the
governor was allowed to name a successor. At the time, Democrats were
worried that then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney would be able to fill any
vacancy created if Democratic Sen. John Kerry was elected president.
Despite expressed admiration for Kennedy's legacy, Republicans are
opposed to any proposal to change the current law.
"We must honor Senator Kennedy's service by allowing those who sent him
to the Senate to decide the next generation of leaders for
Massachusetts," said Jennifer Nassour, chairwoman of the Massachusetts