Senate campaign action already is underway in Massachusetts even before there an official vacancy has appeared. Democrats are making early moves to avoid a divisive party split that could open the door for outgoing Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
Even before Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) begins his confirmation process as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s replacement, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), a 36-year veteran of the House, became the first individual to officially declare himself as a candidate in the upcoming Senate special election.
Under Massachusetts law, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will select Kerry’s successor once the senator officially resigns. A special election will then be scheduled for a time in the weeks succeeding the appointment. Assuming the Kerry confirmation proceeds normally, the special statewide replacement vote likely will be held sometime in June. The special election winner will serve the balance of Kerry’s term, which terminates at the beginning of 2015. Therefore, in order for the next senator to earn a full six-year term, he or she must run in the 2013 special election, and then again in the 2014 regular election.
After Markey’s Dec. 27 announcement, Sen. Kerry himself issued a public statement officially endorsing the congressman as his successor. Vicky Kennedy, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s wife, who was originally mentioned as a potential candidate, quickly followed suit; so did the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Not everyone, however, is falling into line. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-7), who ran in the 2010 Senate special election but fared poorly (losing to Attorney General Martha Coakley 27-47 percent) and is interested in running again, made the following combative statement: “It seems that the big names of our party are trying to choose our nominee for us. When I became mayor of Somerville the establishment wasn’t with me. When I became a member of Congress, the establishment wasn’t with me. If I make this run it will be the same way — from the streets up, not from the elite down.”
Realistically, Capuano is no match for Markey within a Democratic primary. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8) also is considering running, but he too would face a very uphill battle, particularly as the party establishment continues to rally around Markey.
The next move is Gov. Patrick’s. The governor said earlier that he would appoint someone to serve the interim period who would not run in the special election. Now that the party is basically supporting Markey, will he reverse course and choose the Malden area congressman? Doing so would virtually hand Markey the special election victory.
For his part, Sen. Brown, who was defeated in the November election but ironically still enjoys high favorability ratings, has not announced whether he will run for the Kerry seat but certainly hasn’t ruled out such a bid. The downside for him, especially against a united Democratic Party behind Markey, is similar to what he faced in his unsuccessful re-election attempt. Massachusetts, as all political observers know, is one of the most steadfastly loyal Democratic states in the country, making it tough for any Republican to win in any election.
Furthermore, if he were to again run for the Senate, Brown would have to enter the 2013 special election and then defend the seat again just a year later in order to serve a full term. His other option, particularly if Gov. Patrick does not seek re-election — a scenario most analysts believe will unfold — would allow him an open shot at the governor’s mansion. Massachusetts Republicans have fared much better in state contests than federal, and running for governor would only mean one campaign for Brown — in the regular November 2014 election.
Democrats appear to be taking no chances in this special election, making sure there is no repeat of Brown’s stunning 2010 upset victory. With Ed Markey making sound early moves and carrying over a campaign treasury of some $3.1 million to a Senate race, it appears he is positioning himself as the prohibitive favorite to become the state’s next junior US Senator. In this early campaign phase, all is going Markey’s way.