After Kennedy dynasty ends, push builds to fill Senate seat

Vicki Reggie Kennedy has told family friends she does not want to succeed her late husband in the Senate, but that didn't stop two of Sen. Edward Kennedy's close associates from talking up the prospect Sunday.

"She's expressed to me her own sort of reluctance to do that, but she could change her mind," Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said on CNN's State of the Union with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "If she did, I'm for it. I think she'd be great."

Hatch called Kennedy's widow "a very brilliant lawyer" and said she "ought to be considered."

The weekend's emotional funeral services for Kennedy, who was buried Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, now give way to furious political maneuvering. National Democratic Party leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada are pressing Massachusetts lawmakers to grant Kennedy's deathbed wish for a swift interim replacement, while state politicians vie for the first open Senate seat in a quarter century.

"Probably anybody who has held elective office or who has ever aspired to hold elective office in Massachusetts is likely to take a hard look at the seat," said one prospective candidate, former Massachusetts governor Jane Swift, a Republican.

Kerry Healey, a Republican who served as lieutenant governor under then-governor Mitt Romney, also is making moves to enter the race, The Boston Globe reported.

On the Democratic side, the focus is almost inevitably on Kennedys as Bay State voters prepare to fill a seat that the famed political dynasty has effectively owned since future president John F. Kennedy won it in 1952.

The late senator's nephew, former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, could be a strong contender, says David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University's political research center. Out of politics since personal problems caused him to bow out of a 1998 governor's race, the younger Kennedy now heads Citizens Energy, a Boston-based company that helps low-income homeowners with heating bills. He scored a 67% favorability rating in a Suffolk University poll of state voters in March.

Reps. Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano, and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley are among other Democrats considering a run, Boston political analyst John Henning said Sunday on WBZ-TV.

Possibly the most financially formidable Democrat: former representative Marty Meehan, who retired in 2007 and still has a $4.9 million campaign war chest.

Secretary of State William Galvin said last week the law requires a special election no later than Jan. 25. That means primary elections sometime between Dec. 8 and Dec. 19. Under current law, Kennedy's seat will remain vacant until then, but weeks before his death from brain cancer last week, the senator urged that the law be changed to allow for an interim appointment.

That would give Senate Democrats the 60 votes they may need to ensure passage later this year of a health care bill — legislation that Kennedy once called "the cause of my life."

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, said state lawmakers will consider a change in the law when they return to work next month.

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