(CNN) – After U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice's withdrawal from consideration for secretary of state Thursday, all eyes turned to Sen. John Kerry from Massachusetts, who is considered a likely replacement.
But who will fill Kerry's Senate seat if he’s chosen?
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If Kerry steps down, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, would appoint a temporary replacement until he state holds a special election to fill the seat after 145 days and before 160 days of the vacancy. If Clinton remains in her post until the inauguration, and Kerry then immediately resigns to succeed her, the special election to replace him would have to be held between June 13 and June 28, 2013.
If Kerry replaces Clinton, Sen. Scott Brown may have an opportunity to win back a place in the upper chamber.
Brown, a Republican, lost his re-election bid in a costly and hotly contested race to Democrat Elizabeth Warren last month. Scott originally won the seat in a special election in 2010 to replace the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy.
If Kerry’s seat is open, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey is considered a likely contender among Democrats. Markey did not run in the special election two years ago to replace Kennedy because Democrats held the majority in the House at the time and he was content with his position as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Republicans have widely embraced Kerry over Rice for the position. After the ambassador's announcement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Massachusetts senator would be a "popular choice with the Senate."
Rice drew heavy criticism from Republicans over her statements after the September attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Rice was seen as a frontrunner to replace current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Kerry praised Rice as "an extraordinarily capable and dedicated public servant" in a statement after her announcement.
CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Dana Bash contributed to this report.