Massachusetts Democrats are facing a tough political dilemma created by their own machinations: how to hold onto US Senator John F. Kerry’s seat in the face of a special election law they created eight years ago that is now working against them.
With all indications suggesting that Kerry will vacate the seat to become secretary of state, party insiders see huge hurdles that could include a divisive and expensive primary fight, followed by what will probably be a general election battle against Scott Brown, a popular Republican, who is seen by analysts as a strong contender in a low-turnout special election.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that the seat remains in Democratic hands would be to do away with a special election, instead allowing Governor Deval Patrick to appoint a fellow Democrat to serve out the remain der of Kerry’s term through 2014. That was the longstanding law for filling Senate vacancies in Massachusetts before the Legislature changed the statute in 2004, creating a special election procedure in effort to deny Mitt Romney, then governor, a Senate appointment if Kerry had won the presidential race.
Five years later, in 2009, the Legislature again amended the law at the behest of Edward M. Kennedy, who was dying of brain cancer, allowing the governor to appoint an interim senator to fill the seat only for a brief period until the special election. Kennedy argued that the state needed to be represented in the debate at the time over the national health care law.
Because Democratic leaders have now changed the law twice in the last eight years, it would be politically difficult to finagle the process yet again.
“The Democrats are getting what they deserved,” said Jeffrey M. Berry, a political science professor at Tuft University. “They manipulated the rules last time to ostensibly help them keep the Senate seat. . . . It was pure politics.”
Well, give the Glob credit for trying. They use “finagle”, “manipulated”, “pure politics”, and “machinations” to describe the Dems’ actions. They were certainly all that, but they were a lot more. All due respect to the dead, but Kennedy’s “behest” should have meant nothing. He knew he was dying, had been absent from the Senate for months, but never resigned his seat to allow an orderly transition. Why should a state law be changed (again) to protect a Senate seat that belongs to the people, not the Kennedy family, and had already sat empty for months? To all of the above add “selfish”.
For some Democrats, the party, by allowing an open race, could invite a free-for-all primary that would drain its resources and give Brown a leg up to defeat a battered Democratic nominee.
“In an abbreviated election with a significant lower turnout, it is [in] the Democratic Party’s interest to rally around one candidate,’’ said Joseph Ricca, a veteran Democratic operative who has worked on both state and national campaigns.
But it is unclear if the party leadership can impose the discipline that could clear the field for one candidate.
US Representative James P. McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, said it is not politically feasible to control the primary election field, nor would it make any difference.
“I don’t think any of us can really handpick somebody,” said McGovern, who said he has no interest in seeking the seat.
I’m surprised to hear them so resigned. There were no depths to which they would not plumb to get the fake Indian elected. Why wimp out now? I’m sure there are plenty of unqualified, race-faking, practitioners of “spiritual genocide” out there just dying to be US Senator. It’s a pity we can elect only two!