Who Will Succeed Kennedy?

Commentators debate who will replace the liberal lion, and if the replacement will come soon enough for health care reform

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It was only a month ago that Ted Kennedy wrote a letter urging the Massachussetts Legislature to overturn the law to allow the appointment of an interim Senator if Kennedy's seat went vacant. Commentators remarked then that Kennedy had advocated for the law in 2004 to prevent Mitt Romney from filling John Kerry's chair, and the appeal went largely unheeded.

Now these questions of succession have become far more urgent. Kennedy's 60th vote for the Democrats will have no replacement until January special elections, if at all.

Who may replace Kennedy?

  • Kennedy's Wife, hints Sarah Wheaton in the New York Times. "In the letter discussing his successor, Mr. Kennedy said the appointee should offer the "explicit, personal commitment" not to run for the seat in the special election. His wife, confidant and policy adviser, Vicki Kennedy, has been subject of speculation in the state as a possible successor, though she said before his death that she was not interested."
  • Kennedy's Nephew, speculates a report in Politico. "There's also a chance a Kennedy will be on the special election ballot, with Joseph Kennedy II expected to consider running for his late uncle's seat."
  • A Long Line of Democrats, Politico also says, reporting a list of a number of party members in Massachussetts angling for the seat, including "Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley...Reps. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)." This is "the first time a Massachusetts Senate seat will be open since 1984, and a long line of Democrats are expected to consider running to succeed him."

Since elections won't be held for months, the best that health-care reformers can hope for may that friends of Kennedy's from the GOP act as his surrogates in the Senate, voting in favor of the bill in his memory. Liberal Steve Benen sounds this briefly hopeful note in the Washington Monthly:

Another alternative is that just one or two of Kennedy's close, personal friends in the Senate's GOP caucus could honor his memory, put dignity above partisanship, vote for cloture, and not let Kennedy's death kill the cause of his life.

But concludes sadly:

The chances of either of these alternatives occurring are remote.
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