That leaves the field open for what promises to be a lively contest, culminating in a June 25 vote.
A leading contender in the race has already emerged: Rep. Edward Markey, the state’s longest-serving House member in Washington. Known as a staunch liberal with a passion for issues related to energy and the environment, he has the backing of Kerry and many other top Democrats in the state.
But another long-time House member, with Boston roots, is poised to challenge him in a Democratic primary in April. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a former ironworkers union member, is expected to announce his candidacy Thursday. Representative Lynch is less liberal than Markey, criticized by some Democrats for his conservative stance on the sensitive issue of abortion.
Some other potential seekers of the seat, including Rep. Michael Capuano (D), have announced they won’t run.
On the Republican side, all eyes are on Scott Brown, the former state senator who won a surprise ticket to Washington three years ago in the special election after Senator Kennedy’s passing. In November, he lost that seat to Elizabeth Warren (D), and now he’s expected to launch a bid to return to the Senate.
Judging by the recent Brown-Warren race, in which the candidates were locked in a close duel for months while drawing in millions of dollars in contributions for advertising, the coming race could be another big one.
It’s bound to draw national attention in an “off” year, when the only congressional races will be special elections such as this one. As such, it could become a test of political winds amid partisan sparring on fiscal policy.