So Who's Filling John Kerry's Senate Seat?

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So Who's Filling John Kerry's Senate Seat?
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So Who's Filling John Kerry's Senate Seat?

Massachusetts politics have been mercurial of late: John Kerry is preparing to abandon the Senate seat he's held for nearly twenty years, after President Obama nominated him for Secretary of State; Elizabeth Warren was just confirmed as a Senator, following a famously brutal 2012 campaign; and (former) Senator Scott Brown, who ran against Warren, is no more. Or is he? That's the question right now: Who is positioned to take Kerry's Senate seat? And who will take it in the short term? Here's a quick guide to the mysterious, possibly perilous future of Kerry's soon-to-be-old post.

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Kerry's temporary replacement:

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Assuming Kerry flies through his confirmation hearings, he'll have to resign his Senate seat to take Hillary Clinton's job. There will be a special election to fill Kerry's seat in late spring, but between then and now someone needs to fill Kerry's shoes on an interim basis. And nobody has said publicly who that will be — yet. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who is tasked with choosing Kerry's temporary replacement, has said he won't announce anyone until Kerry formally relinquishes his senatorship. We can assume it will be a Democrat, of course, and Patrick has dropped a few hints: for example, he won't pick anyone who plans to run in the special election. That doesn't mean he isn't pondering the decision, though. Via the Springfield Republican:

Patrick has declined comment on any possible appointees including Victoria R. Kennedy, who was married to the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

"I have a mental list," Patrick said of potential appointees. "I have had a number of conversations and there's some pretty compelling candidates. Remember it is a four or five month assignment."

Indeed, Patrick would prefer is he didn't have to deal with a special election — he's indicated that, if given the opportunity, he would sign a bill allowing him to appoint someone to fulfill the entire remainder of Kerry's term. 

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Kerry's permanent replacement:

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We weighed the prospects of Kerry's full-time replacement about two weeks ago, when Ben Affleck seemed like a long shot, Scott Brown seemed like a sure thing, lawyer Edward M. Kennedy  was mostly an unknown entity, and a trio of Massachusetts Congressmen were faintly considered as possibilities. Since then, Affleck and Kennedy have stated they do not intend to run, while Brown has said that he is "tempted" to run, and of the trio of Congressmen considered before — Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch, and Ed Markey — only Markey has formally announced his intention to enter the special election. (Lynch is giving "serious consideration".) And state Democrats, including Kerry and Vicki Kennedy, have already rallied around Markey. That could be the strongest hint yet at what's to come in the special election's primaries — if there even are primaries.

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Right now, it looks like we'll see Scott Brown take the GOP spot (unless a heretofore unknown Republican jumps in to challenge him) and Edward Markey take the Democratic nomination (unless Lynch — or possibly Capuano! — garner enough support from their party's leaders to force him deep into the spring with a primary).

As for who, between the two men, will capture the Senate seat: that's still (way) up in the air. But recent polls indicate that even a post-loss Brown is still very popular in Massachusetts, and Markey (or any of his Democratic equivalents) is far less so. There's plenty of time to close that gap, of course. Still, Markey (or Lynch, or Capuano) isn't another Elizabeth Warren, whose fame beyond Massachusetts, based on her willingness to interrogate the financial industry, translated well into local support. Markey, on the other hand, has been re-elected eighteen times. It's difficult to get excited about a career politician. It's very possible, then, that we'll see Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown — enemies to core, it once seemed — serve side-by-side in the Senate after all.