Move to Allow Temporary Senate Appointment Picks Up Steam

Posted August 26, 2009 at 5:35pm

Massachusetts state legislative leaders appear more likely to pass a law that would allow Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a temporary placeholder to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). During a national cable news interview Wednesday afternoon, Patrick said he thought the Legislature may take up a bill allowing for the appointment when it returns after Labor Day. “If that bill comes to me, I will sign it,— Patrick said on MSNBC, citing the fact that his state would be short one vote on important issues like health care reform and climate change if the Senate seat is left vacant until an expected special election in January. The temporary appointee is not expected to run to fill out the remainder of Kennedy’s term in the special election. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis (D) is often mentioned as a possible temporary appointee. At the age of 75, he could give his assurances to leaders that he would not run in the special election. In a letter sent last week, Kennedy urged state lawmakers to consider changing the law to allow Patrick to make a temporary appointment. Although Democratic state leaders have not been publicly receptive to the idea, the Boston Herald reported Wednesday that state Speaker Robert DeLeo has privately given the proposal his tacit approval. The temporary appointment law cannot be passed until the state Legislature returns after Labor Day. “I think that the Legislature and the governor are likely to do this, to change the law so that there would be the interim appointment,— said a Democratic operative in Massachusetts. “It’s not a done deal, but it looks like it is.— In the meantime, several Democrats, including a couple of House Members, will likely run in the January special election because they do not have to step down from their current office to run for the Senate. State Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) has already expressed interest in running for Senate, although she would start off with a financial disadvantage compared to some of the House Members. But as the only female and statewide officer in the state, Coakley would stand out in a crowded field. Local Democrats mentioned Reps. Steve Lynch (D) and Mike Capuano (D) as likely candidates. Lynch and Capuano reported having $1.39 million and $1.21 million, respectively, in their campaign accounts at the end of June. Former Rep. Marty Meehan (D) left Congress in 2007 with almost $5 million left in his campaign account, but at least one source close to him said he is unlikely to run for the Senate. It is also unlikely that Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, or his nephew, former Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), will run in the special election, although either of their candidacies could clear the field. “If a member of the Kennedy family would run, I think it would dramatically change everything in the Democratic Party,— said a Democratic operative in the Bay State. “If Vicki or Joe decided to run, it’s quite possible that they would clear the field.—Joe Kennedy still has $1.77 million in campaign funds left over from his tenure in Congress.Several Bay State Republican operatives were hard-pressed to name any of their own who could run for the seat, although state Sen. Scott Brown, former Justice Department official Wayne Budd and businessman David Sukoff were mentioned as potentially strong candidates. Republicans would like to see former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card run for office in his home state, but they said he is unlikely to do so. Kerry’s short-lived challenger in 2008, hay farmer Jim Ogonowski (R), is not interested in running for office again, according to a source close to the Republican. Ogonowski narrowly lost the special election to succeed Meehan in the 5th district in 2007, but failed to get enough signatures to get on the ballot to challenge Kerry.