Mass. governor set to name Ted Kennedy successor

BOSTON -- Former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. was the favored pick Thursday as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick prepared to announce a temporary replacement for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Kennedy's sons, Edward Kennedy Jr. and U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., both lobbied for Kirk in separate phone calls to the governor, according to a family confidant and a Patrick aide. The governor scheduled a late-morning news conference at the Statehouse to declare his choice, and aides said Vicki Kennedy, the senator's widow, and his children were expected to attend as a sign of the family's approval.

Kennedy died last month of brain cancer, and an appointee will serve until a permanent successor is chosen through a special election scheduled for Jan. 19. The appointment will restore a critical 60th Democratic vote in the U.S. Senate as President Barack Obama pushes to pass a health care overhaul that was Kennedy's life passion. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., planned to attend the announcement ceremony, an aide said.

Kirk, 71, is a Boston attorney and was close friends with the senator. He and his wife, Gail, live on Cape Cod, and he was among the few regular visitors allowed at Kennedy's Hyannis Port home before his death.

Kirk knows the senator's staff intimately and would likely be assured of their loyalty given his relationship with Kennedy.

A senior statesman who has never served in political office, Kirk wouldn't pose a threat to the candidates competing in the special election. The Democratic field includes Attorney General Martha Coakley, vying to be the state's first female senator, and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, the lone member of the state's congressional delegation in the race.

Kirk has been assisting with efforts to raise money for a Senate institute named for Kennedy. Organizers have been criticized for accepting donations from the health care industry while Kennedy and the White House push for an industry overhaul.

Federal records also show Kirk registered as a lobbyist a decade ago. While Kirk would be banned from lobbying for two years after his appointment ends, he would retain Senate floor privileges, the honorific title "senator" and a coveted Capitol Hill parking space for life.

He also has been a board member for Hartford Financial Services, known colloquially as "The Hartford." It sells life and property insurance.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Legislature approved a bill allowing the governor to make an interim appointment after a contentious debate and a whirl of parliamentary maneuvering.

Patrick planned to send a letter to the secretary of state to declare an emergency, allowing him to override a legislative vote that defeated his administration's effort to make the bill take effect immediately. Normally, legislation faces a 90-day waiting period.

"I recognize the gravity of this decision and I will make it very soon, and tell you just as soon as I do," the governor told reporters Wednesday night.


Post a Comment