Jockeying begins for Mass. senate seat, even before it's vacant
December 16th, 2012
07:50 AM ET
1 year ago

Jockeying begins for Mass. senate seat, even before it's vacant

(CNN) - Get ready Massachusetts: Another special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat may be coming your way. And jockeying is already underway among potential candidates, even before it's official there will actually be vacant seat and an election.

With U.S Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice no longer in contention to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as America's top diplomat, President Barack Obama had decided to nominate Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, always one of the top contenders for the job, a Democrat who spoke to Kerry told CNN Saturday.

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A formal announcement for Kerry could come as early as next week, the Democratic source said.

And that means the five-term senator from Massachusetts and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee would step down from his job, leaving a vacant seat in the Bay State and triggering a special election as early as May or June of next year.

Here's how it could work. If nominated by the president and confirmed by his colleagues in the Senate, Kerry would leave Congress, and Deval Patrick, the state's Democratic governor, would appoint a replacement to fill the seat.

By state law, a special general election is required to take place 145 to 160 days after a vacancy occurs. So if Kerry were nominated, confirmed, and then stepped down on January 21 (Inauguration day), the election would take place between June 14-29, with primary elections being held six weeks earlier.

Whoever wins the special election would serve the final year and a half of Kerry's term and would then be able to run again for a full six-year term in office in the 2014 midterm elections.

The big question is whether Patrick will appoint someone to serve as an interim senator or name someone who would run in the special election and possibly clear the primary field.

In 2009, after the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, the governor said he would only appoint a caretaker and named former Democratic Party chairman Paul Kirk to fill the seat. Later that year, state Attorney General Martha Coakley won a multi-candidate primary but was upset in the January 2010 general election by onetime long shot Scott Brown, a Republican state lawmaker.

Patrick says it's too soon to say if he'll once again name a caretaker or appoint someone who would run in the special election. But a Democratic strategist in Massachusetts says Patrick is under pressure to avoid naming a caretaker, in the hopes of preventing a divisive primary.

"It didn't work out too well last time with a caretaker being named," said the strategist, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

The strategist told CNN that both Rep. Ed Markey and Rep. Michael Capuano have already separately met with Patrick to ask for the appointment, if Kerry's seat does open up.

Markey, who's served 19 terms, is the dean of the Massachusetts House delegation. He didn't run in the special election two years ago to replace Kennedy because at the time the Democrats held the majority in the House and Markey was chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

Capuano, who's served seven terms, last month told CNN affiliate WCVB that "I will consider it," when asked if he'd run in a special election. Capuano ran in the special election two years ago, finishing second in the Democratic primary to Coakley.

Add to this list Rep. Stephen Lynch, a social-conservative from South Boston.

"If a Senate seat were to become available, I would give serious consideration to running," Lynch said Friday in a statement provided to CNN.

Democratic sources say State Treasurer Steve Grossman also has interest in the Senate seat, if it opens up.

Another name that was mentioned in the last special election, and that's come up again, is Vicki Kennedy. A source with knowledge of the conversation tells CNN that the governor met with Kennedy, the widow of the late senator, in person to talk about the possibility of Kennedy filling Kerry's seat if he's nominated for secretary of state. The source has no other details about when, where, or the specifics about the conversation.

It's not clear if Kennedy would serve in the caretaker role or if she would run in the special election. In the past Kennedy's said she would be unlikely to accept such an appointment. ABC's Jonathan Karl was first to report Kennedy's conversation with the governor.

There's also some speculation that Patrick himself would have interest in the Senate seat. But last month the governor pushed back at such speculation, saying "No, no. I have the only job in politics that I've ever wanted," and added that "I have two more years to finish it up. We've got a lot to do."

On the Republican side, most speculation focuses on Sen. Brown, who was defeated last month by Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. In his Election night concession speech Brown said "defeat is only temporary."

And in his Senate farewell speech Thursday, Scott repeated that line, and also added that "depending on what happens, and where we go, all of us, we may obviously meet again, but I'm looking forward to continuing on with those friendships, with continuing on working with my staff."

If he runs, Brown would be viewed as a strong contender.

Brown won the January 2010 special election by five points over Coakley, but lost to Warren by eight points in his re-election bid last month. Around 2.3 million voters cast ballots in the 2010 special election, and nearly 3.2 million voting in last month's general election.

Republicans often perform better in special elections, which usually draw far fewer voters than regularly scheduled elections. But a Democratic party source tells CNN that a special election in 2013 "would not be a repeat of 2010," when many Democrats took the race for granted, in a state where Democratic voters greatly outnumber Republican voters.

"We see what happens when Democrats are committed to getting out the votes," said the source, as he pointed to Brown's eight-point loss to Warren last month. The big question is whether the 2013 electorate will look more like that of the 2010 contest or that of last month's general election.

One other GOP name that's been mentioned in a few media reports is former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who recently moved back to Massachusetts from New York.

But a Republican strategist in Massachusetts discounts such talk, telling CNN that "the only thing predictable about Bill Weld is his unpredictability, but for now it looks like he has his feet firmly planted in the concrete of the private sector."

CNN Chief National Correspondent John King and CNN Anchor John Berman contributed to this story


Filed under: 2012 • Deval Patrick • John Kerry • Massachusetts
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Chris in NY

    Welcome to the world of special elections. McCain and Graham may think they have a chance at winning that seat. They are delusional. I don't care if I have to go to Massachussetts and campaign for whichever Democratswho wants the seat. This seat must not to go to Republicans. Republicanswant to stick it to the President and his appointees, we will stick it to Republicans. They should not win any more seats in the house or senate.

    December 14, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Woman In California

    If he runs, Brown would be viewed as a strong contender.

    Let's hope not. Let's also hope we have seen the LAST of Big Nose Brown.

    December 14, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. CBR

    This is all so unbelievable. These two Senators, McCain and Graham made it virtually impossible for the President to nominate the person who he felt was the best person for the job. These two men decided that Ambassador Rice had made statements which were not true and caused people to look at the shootings in Libya in a different manner. Just how dumb do we think we are. WE all know that it is not until some investigating is done that the story unfolds. Had this mass reaction to the foolish film produced in this country not occurred those intent on turning this into a violent situation would not have been able to do so. They entered the situation under the guise of being part of the demonstration. The rest is history.

    No one has even talked about the fact that Republicans voted against an increase in funding for security. They all conveniently forget that they did this and the results that followed their actions,,

    Now they are all massing behind John Kerry. Perhaps they believe they can manipulate him when they definitely could not manipulate Ambassador Rice.

    We reap what we sow and these Senators are no different. Their actions really make me realize how lucky we were that Sen. McCain was not elected to the Presidency. HE has shown that he does not have the temperament or the power of reasoning to be President. His choice of Governor Palin gave us a glimpse into he ideas about people who should serve. Ambassador Rice has the ability, the education, the support of the President and more and Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham pulled Sen. Ayotte into their little group and denied us the opportunity to decide if Ambassador could or should serve.

    Now they want us to know they find Sen. Kerry acceptable. Whether or not this is true does not matter. It is the process they used which was so very wrong.

    December 14, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  4. judy

    pick a Kennedy any Kennedy stop brown in his tracks

    December 14, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  5. why

    I'd like to see a Barney Frank/Warren team beat the crap out of bankers and hedge fund operators and I almost forgot the speculative traders too.

    December 14, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. California Gary

    Brown just got rejected by the voters, and look bad during the course of his campaign. I don't think he would be the serious contender a lot of folks think he would be. Hard to think about politics right now in light of what happened at that elementary school today.......can't get the image of 5 year olds sitting there scared to death, crying, and waiting for their turn to be shot out of my mind. Time to get past the fear of the NRA and get some serious gun legislation on the books......it won't prevent all tragedies.....but it may prevent some. This is happening way too often.

    December 14, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. Woman In California

    @ Chris in NY

    I couldn't agree with you more. IF any money is needed, they can count on me.

    December 14, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  8. Facts don't Lie

    just think if congress could work as hard at getting things done that are going to happen (the "cliff") as some seem to be with things that haven't even yet been declared such as the Massachusetts senate seat or the possible Rice recommendation .

    December 14, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  9. Debbie

    I hope Obama does not reward the GOP with their antics and recommends a moderate Republican. Colin Powell, Susan Collins, etc. Keeps Brown from being a Senator, and the GOP would have to face one of their own in voting for or against one of their own.

    December 14, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  10. Dude

    Most of who voted against Brown where voting against a repub controlled senate not Brown. Since that is no longer an issue Brown will win this election.

    December 14, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  11. Dude

    Also note that 51% of voters in Mass are independents out numbering Dems and Repubs combined.

    December 14, 2012 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  12. Jan

    My first thought was to ask if there was a spare Kennedy around, it seems there is.

    December 15, 2012 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  13. GOP IS LOST

    Sen Kerry needs to take himself out of consideration for this position. The Senate does not need to risk the loss of a seat. The GOP hacks will do all they can to block the vote, lie, cheat, and steal to win that seat. Take it off the table Sen Kerry!!?

    December 15, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  14. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    What ever happened to letting the body get cold before the heirs fight over the estate?

    December 15, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. Martha in CF

    You people in Washington are like vulchers. Please, more time should be spent on getting our country back-start negotiating, start compromising. 2014 will be before you know it......

    December 15, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |