'Should a Senate vacancy occur,' who might replace Kennedy?
The ailing senator is thinking about his succession. The likely candidates can be divided into Kennedys and non-Kennedys.
But in the letter, released, Thursday, he did ask for legislators to change the stateâ€™s procedure for filling vacant senate seats, allowing the governor to appoint a temporary replacement â€śshould a Senate vacancy occur.â€ť
Senator Kennedy went so far as to recommend that the governor obtain a personal promise that whomever he appoints will not run for Kennedyâ€™s seat in the special election.
But who might be able to step in, both as temporary â€ścaretakersâ€ť and as candidates in the special election?
Kennedyâ€™s potential successors are often grouped into Kennedys and non-Kennedys.
The first caretaker offer would likely be extended to the senatorâ€™s wife Vicki Kennedy. â€śThat would be good political manners,â€ť says Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. She would likely refuse given the timing of the offer, but she could be a contender in the special election.
While Joe Kennedy has also been mentioned as a candidate in a special election, he has long stated his disinterest in politics. Additionally, in the course of his work with Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit organization that provides heating oil to low income families, he has developed a relationship with the controversial president of Venezuela, Hugo ChĂˇvez, which could also complicate his bid.
If a Kennedy were to run, â€śtheyâ€™d be facing fierce competition,â€ť says Charles Stewart, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. â€śMassachusettsâ€™ two senate seats have been totally locked up for decades now, and everybody with political ambition has been biding their time and waiting to run.â€ť
The list of non-Kennedy candidates is long.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley â€śhas all the marks of a potentially successful candidate,â€ť says Professor Stewart. She has had previous success in statewide elections and could be regarded as â€śa breath of fresh airâ€ť for voters who are tired of the â€śinsider baseballâ€ť nature of Massachusetts politics.
Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy Cahill and former Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan are also possibilities, according to Stewart, but so too are many members of the Massachusetts legislature.
Those with established statewide campaign organizations and leftover war chests from previous election fundraising are especially well positioned.
Gov. Deval Patrick is another Massachusetts politician who is known to have national ambitions, but his popularity in the state has fallen recently, making his candidacy a risky one.
â€śIt could look like heâ€™s running away from the [Governorâ€™s] office,â€ť Berry notes. â€ś[Lt. Gov.] Tim Murray would be a more likely candidate, but heâ€™s said heâ€™s going to be loyal and stay with the governor.â€ť