Democrats seem certain to retain Kennedy’s Senate seat
If history and emotion are any indication, Democrats seem certain to retain Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, which the Massachusetts liberal held for nearly a half century before succumbing last week to brain cancer.
Political analysts note that Massachusetts has traditionally voted Democratic, including in last year’s U.S. presidential election. The last time Massachusetts elected a Republican to the Senate was 1972 when it gave Edward Brooke a second six-year term.
Analysts also point out that Kennedy’s death created a tidal wave of emotion, one that his party will likely ride to victory in a special election to replace him.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced on Monday that the special election would be held on Jan. 19 and he also made a plug for one of Kennedy’s final pleas — that state law be changed to allow for the governor to appoint an interim senator until a special election is held.
If the governor is permitted to name a temporary successor to Kennedy, the new senator would become the sixth appointed rather than elected lawmaker in the 100-member Senate.
If Democrats keep Kennedy’s old seat, they would potentially retain the 60 votes needed to clear Republican procedural roadblocks. But the Senate Democratic caucus has already split on a number of issues, including Kennedy’s efforts to provide all Americans health insurance.
Nathan Gonzales, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, said he expects Democrats to prevail in the special election.
Joseph Kennedy, 56, a former member of the House of Representatives and a nephew of the late senator, is seen as a leading potential contender.
“Joe Kennedy would be an early favorite and would diminish the field of competitors,” said Gonzales. “He would give some potential candidates pause who would otherwise jump in.”
Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said she puts the pending contest in Massachusetts in the “solid-Democratic column.”
“Joseph Kennedy would be an early but not necessarily a prohibitive favorite,” Duffy said. She noted that during his House stint from 1987 to 1999, Kennedy was not seen as a congressional heavyweight and could be vulnerable.
Possible Democratic candidates include Representatives Ed Markey, Stephen Lynch, Mike Capuano, William Delahunt and former Representative Marty Meehan. Potential Republican contenders include Jeff Beatty, who lost a 2008 Senate bid, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.
Gonzales said the Republican most likely to be able to mount a serious challenge has already said he isn’t interested: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Photo credit: Reuters/Adam Hunger (Kennedy at rally for Deval Patrick in 2006)