Massachusetts Governor Sets Special Election for Kennedy Seat, Backs Interim Appointment

Published August 31, 2009


Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced Monday that the special election to fill the Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat will be held in January, but said he wants to make an interim appointment before then. 

Patrick set the general election for Jan. 19. A source close to the proceeding said the primary will be held Dec. 8. Under state law, the election must be 145 to 160 days after a vacancy. 

But Patrick said he will also push to change state law so that he can name an interim senator in the run-up to the election. Lawmakers have scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 9 on the proposed change, requested by Kennedy before his death last week. 

The governor said that without the "modest change," voters will not be fully represented as Congress tackles weighty issues. 

"The Congress is debating some of the most historic and significant legislation in decades, bound to affect all of us for decades," Patrick said, citing health care reform among them. "This is the only way to assure that Massachusetts is fully represented until the voters of the state elect our next senator in January." 

But authorizing an appointment is controversial, especially since it was Democrats who established the special election system in 2004, at a time when Sen. John Kerry was running for president and then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, was in a position to appoint his successor. 

Massachusetts House Republican Leader Brad Jones told FOX News Radio that while he fought for appointment power years ago, changing the rules now would leave a "bad taste" in voters' mouths. 

"The game has started if you will, and changing the rules in the middle of the game isn't agreeable to anybody and shouldn't be agreeable to anybody," he said. 

Possible contenders for the seat include Kennedy's widow Vicki Kennedy, nephew and former Rep. Joseph Kennedy, Attorney General Martha Coakley and several members of the state's congressional delegation. 

Responding to the notion that another Kennedy is being groomed to succeed the late senator, Jones said the seat is "not the Senate seat of any particular family." 

But Patrick said Monday that Vicki Kennedy told him she is not interested. Patrick also said he would not seek the position. 

"I've got a job," Patrick said, adding that he hopes Massachusetts sees a "robust" race in January. 

Patrick would not discuss possible candidates. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.