Report: Replacement for Kennedy chosen

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has reportedly settled on a temporary successor to the late senator -- maybe


Alex Koppelman
September 24, 2009 12:45AM (UTC)

If Fox News' Major Garrett is right, then we already know the identity of the newest senator from Massachusetts, who'll be replacing the late Sen. Ted Kennedy until a special election is held early next year. That's if he's right, of course, and so far the office of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who's charged with making the choice, isn't saying -- for now, in fact, they're saying no final decision has been made.

The man Garrett says will get the nod from Patrick is Paul Kirk, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee who was a close friend and aide to Kennedy -- he worked for him for years, chairs the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and was the master of ceremonies at one memorial service for the senator. Kirk has gotten the endorsement of Kennedy family members, including the senator's widow, Victoria, and his two sons.

Advertisement:

Even if Patrick has settled on Kirk, there are still some issues left to be resolved. The biggest is a legal one: Laws passed by the Massachusetts Legislature don't take effect for 90 days. That can be circumvented with an addition to a bill, an "emergency preamble," but the state House voted the addition down on Wednesday. There's one out left, though -- Patrick himself can sign a letter declaring an emergency, which would make the law effective immediately.

That, too, might be easier said than done, however. Patrick's up for re-election next year, and he's lost quite a bit of luster recently. It would have been one thing if the state Legislature had given him the power to make the appointment immediately, as there would have been hundreds of votes to give him political cover. If he signs the letter, though, he's all but on his own. There are still plenty of votes out there to give him cover -- the emergency preamble requires a two-thirds vote, and didn't pass only for that reason --  but they mean a whole lot less without the official approval of the Legislature as a whole.

Given that issue, if Patrick does sign the letter and make the appointment immediately, it'll be interesting to see if he sticks with Kirk. The man is qualified, and respected, sure. But there've been a whole lot of issues with governors making Senate appointments recently, and in this case support from the Kennedys could actually be a point against Kirk -- if Patrick's nervous about making a choice that looks dynastic, or like he's putting a Kennedy puppet in, he could look elsewhere. Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, is the other possibility who's getting the most buzz.

If Fox News' Major Garrett is right, then we already know the identity of the newest senator from Massachusetts, who'll be replacing the late Sen. Ted Kennedy until a special election is held early next year. That's if he's right, of course, and so far the office of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who's charged with making the choice, isn't saying -- for now, in fact, they're saying no final decision has been made.

The man Garrett says will get the nod from Patrick is Paul Kirk, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee who was a close friend and aide to Kennedy -- he worked for him for years, chairs the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and was the master of ceremonies at one memorial service for the senator. Kirk has gotten the endorsement of Kennedy family members, including the senator's widow, Victoria, and his two sons.

Even if Patrick has settled on Kirk, there are still some issues left to be resolved. The biggest is a legal one: Laws passed by the Massachusetts Legislature don't take effect for 90 days. That can be circumvented with an addition to a bill, an "emergency preamble," but the state House voted the addition down on Wednesday. There's one out left, though -- Patrick himself can sign a letter declaring an emergency, which would make the law effective immediately.

Advertisement:

That, too, might be easier said than done, however. Patrick's up for re-election next year, and he's lost quite a bit of luster recently. It would have been one thing if the state Legislature had given him the power to make the appointment immediately, as there would have been hundreds of votes to give him political cover. If he signs the letter, though, he's all but on his own. There are still plenty of votes out there to give him cover -- the emergency preamble requires a two-thirds vote, and didn't pass only for that reason --  but they mean a whole lot less without the official approval of the Legislature as a whole.

Given that issue, if Patrick does sign the letter and make the appointment immediately, it'll be interesting to see if he sticks with Kirk. The man is qualified, and respected, sure. But there've been a whole lot of issues with governors making Senate appointments recently, and in this case support from the Kennedys could actually be a point against Kirk -- if Patrick's nervous about making a choice that looks dynastic, or like he's putting a Kennedy puppet in, he could look elsewhere. Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, is the other possibility who's getting the most buzz.

Advertisement:

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Deval Patrick Paul Kirk, D-mass. Ted Kennedy U.s. Senate War Room

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •