Replacement for Senator Ted Kennedy named

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has named former Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk to temporarily replace the late Edward "Ted" Kennedy in the US Senate.

Ted Kennedy

Kirk, a longtime friend and former aide to Kennedy, is to be sworn in as senator this Friday. He will serve in the post until voters pick a permanent replacement during a special election next January.

The governor told reporters Thursday that matters before Congress and the nation are "too important for us to be one voice short" in Washington.

The appointment gives Democratic leaders in the Senate the 60th seat needed to circumvent efforts by Senate Republicans to prevent crucial votes on a health care reform bill. The late senator had called reform of the nation's health care system the cause of his life.

Kirk said he was honoured to be appointed and added that he will not run in the special election. "He [Kennedy] often said that representing the people of Massachusetts in the Senate of the United States was the highest honour that he could possibly imagine, and it is certainly nothing that I imagined, but it will be my highest honour, as well," Kirk said.

Kennedy's widow, Victoria, and his two sons, Edward Kennedy, Jr. and US Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, both urged Governor Patrick to name Kirk.

The appointment comes one day after the Massachusetts House and Senate passed legislation allowing the governor to name an interim replacement until a special election is held. Kennedy's seat would have remained empty until the next elections, had that legislation not been approved. The rule change was one of Kennedy's last wishes.

Reaction

President Barack Obama released a statement saying, "I am pleased that Massachusetts will have its full representation in the United States Senate in the coming months, as important issues such as health care, financial reform and energy will be debated. Paul Kirk is a distinguished leader, whose long collaboration with Senator Kennedy makes him an excellent, interim choice to carry on his work until the voters make their choice in January."

Senator John Kerry, who is now the senior Senator for Massachusetts spoke at the press conference announcing Kirk's selection noted, "This is a caretaker appointment, a gentle transition, a kind of stewardship — and Paul Kirk will be a superb steward of this seat." Kerry further added, "Governor Patrick found the person for this moment and did what's in the best interests of our state."

Former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis said of the selection, "If it had to be somebody else, believe me, this was the guy. He will hit the ground running, probably even faster than I would because he was down in Washington. He's going to be fine."

Dukakis was the preferred choice to hold the seat in the interim and was undergoing the vetting process by Patrick's administration until Kennedy's widow and sons choice of Kirk became known.

However, not all reaction was positive. The head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rob Jesmer called the appointment a "power play" by Massachusetts Democrats saying in a statement, that Kirk's appointment "has nothing to do with principle, and everything to do with politics."

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