Special Election to Decide Ted Kennedy's Successor

Michael Santo's picture

Mass. Sen. Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer last night at the age of 77. During his last days, he asked that a replacement be chosen as quickly as possible. However, unlike most states, Massachusetts requires a special election in these cases.

Ted Kennedy, known as the "Liberal Lion" for his unfaltering support of progressive politics, was the last of the Kennedy brothers who dominated 1960s politics. He served nearly 50 years in the Senate, alongside 10 presidents, including his brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy's brain cancer was diagnosed last year, and he defied the odds by living more than a year after diagnosis. He even made a surprise return to the Capitol last summer to cast the decisive vote for the Democrats on Medicare.

For Ted Kennedy's successor, Massachusetts law requires a special election no sooner than 145 days and no later than 160 days after a vacancy occurs. The law forbids an interim appointee. Until 2004, when Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., became the party's presidential nominee, the governor would have appointed a replacement to serve until the next general election.

However, Republican Mitt Romney was the state's governor. Before the change, that would given Romney an opportunity to install a fellow Republican in office. This move was made by the Democrats who control the state legislature to prevent that.

Last week, however, Ted Kennedy asked state lawmakers to change the law to give Massachusetts' current governor, Deval Patrick, a fellow supporter of President Barack Obama, the ability to appoint an interim replacement to his seat. It's unclear if this will take place, but any change could not happen immediately. Lawmakers are not expected to return to formal sessions until after Labor Day.

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