Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Replacing Sen. Kerry?

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Since US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has withdrawn from consideration as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s replacement, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) now appears to top the list of appointment candidates. Assuming Pres. Barack Obama chooses Kerry, speculation on Capitol Hill is already percolating about who will succeed the 28-year senatorial veteran.

Liberal Massachusetts and conservative Texas have at least one thing in common. They share the same uncommon way of replacing senators when a vacancy occurs. In each state, the respective governor appoints an individual to serve only until a special election can be held; the winner of which then serves the remainder of the term. Most states empower the governor to appoint an interim-senator until the next regular election, therefore bypassing a special vote.

The first question that Gov. Deval Patrick (D) must answer is whether he will appoint a person just for a period of weeks under the condition that said individual does not become a special election candidate. Patrick chose this very course of action when Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) passed away in 2009. Or, will he put no political restrictions upon his eventual choice, and thus award one person the advantage of incumbency.

The legislature changed the Massachusetts succession law in the wake of the Kennedy vacancy because the Obamacare legislation was scheduled for a vote and Senate passage was not secured. At the end of 2009, Gov. Patrick chose former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul Kirk for the short term appointment.

Among Democrats reported to be interested in being appointed and then running for the office are three members of the House delegation: Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), Mike Capuano (D-MA-7), and Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8).

One person who almost assuredly will not make a return appearance as a senatorial candidate is Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who lost the 2010 special election to Republican Scott Brown as a result of running a miserable campaign.

Among potential Republican candidates, it is the outgoing Sen. Scott Brown who is most often mentioned. Even after being defeated in November, his popularity remains surprisingly high and he has not ruled out a return to elective politics. Brown obviously would be the strongest candidate the GOP could field, but it is not a certainty that he will compete.

Former Gov. Bill Weld (R), who just recently moved back to Massachusetts from New York, is also mentioned as a possible contender should Brown decide to pass. Another, and conceivably more attractive option for the soon-to-be ex-senator is to run for governor if Mr. Patrick decides not to seek a third term. The winner of the eventual special election will also have to run in 2014 because the current term expires at that time. Thus, the new senator will likely have to run what will be two major statewide campaigns in the course of about 18 months.

This picture will not become clear until both Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Patrick make their personnel selections. Until then, the conjecture will remain hot.

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