Moakley's Death Opens South Boston Seat

The death of U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley could launch another Kennedy into Massachusetts' politics.

Robert F. Kennedy's son, Max Kennedy, is considering a run for the South Boston Democrat's seat in a special election. Kennedy made a less-than-impressive debut earlier this month when he giggled and stumbled through a speech, and an election loss would bring an end to the family's century-long winning streak in Bay State politics. Unlike his uncle, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who cruised to re-election last year, Max Kennedy would face tough competition from fellow Democrats with strong ties to the district.

Several Possible Contenders

One possible opponent is Democratic state Sen. Stephen Lynch, who hails from the same South Boston neighborhood as Moakley and has strong ties to organized labor. Two other state senators are also weighing runs. State Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Milton, has filed papers with the Federal Elections Commission. Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, said he also plans to create an exploratory committee "at the appropriate time." Another possible candidate is Democratic Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy. Any Republican jumping into the race would face an uphill battle. The heavily Democratic 9th district includes much of the city of Boston as well as suburbs to the west and south. All of Massachusetts' congressional seats are currently held by Democrats. Former radio talk show host Janet Jeghelian, a Republican, was soundly defeated by Moakley in 2000 after running a lackluster campaign. None of the potential candidates wanted to talk about the special election yesterday, saying they wanted the focus to be on Moakley. "I think those questions regarding the campaign are probably questions for another day," Lynch said.

No Date Yet for Special Election

Moakley spoke with some of his potential successors, including Lynch, Pacheco and Kennedy, after announcing his illness. He did not publicly endorse anyone. "He was realistic about the politics. He was a successful practicing politician who understood that people would move to succeed him," said Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Philip Johnston. "I don't think he favored one candidate over another." An aide to acting Gov. Jane Swift, on maternity leave after the birth of twin daughters earlier this month, said she has not made a decision on the timing of the special election.

Moakley died on Memorial Day following a battle with leukemia, after 29 years in Congress. His brothers accompanied his body back to Boston on Monday. A funeral is scheduled for Friday. Although both his uncle and older brother, former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy, are well known in Massachusetts, Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy may be best remembered as the 3-year-old boy who lost his father to an assassin's bullet in 1968. Last year he served as campaign manager for his uncle's re-election campaign. He is co-director of the Watershed Institute, a nonprofit environmental organization based at Boston College.