Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick set Jan. 19, 2010, as the date for the state's special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The primary -- almost certain to determine who replaces Kennedy in the heavily Democratic state -- will be held Dec. 8.
The race to succeed Kennedy has been effectively frozen in place as a handful of ambitious Democrats wait to see what Kennedy's family members might do.
As reported by George Stephanopoulos today and confirmed by Patrick in a news conference in Boston this afternoon, Vicki Kennedy, the senator's widow, is not interested in an interim appointment, if state law is changed to allow the governor to appoint a stand-in until the election.
The governor expressed support for that change, which was requested by the late senator. The state legislature now has to act on that measure.
Patrick also shot down speculation that he might be interested in moving from the governor's mansion to Capitol Hill, saying he would not appoint himself to the highly coveted seat.
The first open Senate seat in Massachusetts in a quarter-century is generating intense interest from a generation's worth of ambitious politicians.
With Kennedy's widow apparently out of the running, attention has turned to the senator's nephew, Joseph P. Kennedy II, who was a House member for Massachusetts for 12 years, in the emerging race to fill out the rest of the late senator's term. One Massachusetts Democrat with close ties to the Kennedys said Joe Kennedy would make up his mind by the end of this week, and that he's "about 50-50" on whether he will run.
Vicki Kennedy has told friends and associates that she's not interested in assuming the Senate seat her husband held for 47 years. But several of Kennedy's closest friends in the Senate are publicly supporting the concept of her continuing the legacy, either on an interim basis or in running to complete her husband's term.
"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 Sunday on CNN. "I think she brings talent and ability to it and to fill that spot I think is something the people of Massachusetts would welcome. We could use her in the Senate."
And while Joe Kennedy left politics a decade ago, his stirring tribute to his uncle's public service at a memorial service Friday in Boston has prompted speculation that he's ready to get back in the political mix.
The race in the heavily Democratic state will be a five-month sprint that may pit some of the Bay State's most prominent politicians and political families against each other. Several members of the state's all-Democratic House delegation could jump in the race, as could Attorney General Martha Coakley, one of the state's most popular politicians.
"It's not just a Kennedy vacating the job -- it's a Senate seat in Massachusetts, and these do not come along but maybe once in a lifetime," said Dan Payne, a veteran Boston-based Democratic consultant.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are seriously considering complying with the senator's dying wish: that his seat be filled in the interim by a Democrat -- one who won't run for election -- to fill out the rest of his Senate term, which runs through 2012.
Patrick said on "Good Morning America" last week that allowing him to make an interim appointment is a "reasonable request." He's indicated that he would sign such a bill, if the Democratic-dominated legislature passes it. Aside from Vicki and Joe Kennedy, possible candidates include Coakley; Rep. Niki Tsongas, whose late husband Paul once held the state's other Senate seat; Rep. Michael Capuano; Rep. Stephen Lynch; Rep. Edward J. Markey; and former Rep. Marty Meehan, who is now chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Among the multitude of ways Kennedy's death leaves a void: For the first time in more than half a century, a major post will be filled in the state without clear leadership from one of the nation's most enduring political dynasties.