By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Patrick should announce his interim choice

Not that Gov. Deval Patrick is looking to Media Nation for advice. But if there’s one way to break the impasse over an interim senator to replace the late Ted Kennedy until the Jan. 19 special election, it’s this: Patrick should announce his choice now.

It seems pretty clear that the state Legislature in 2004 did the right thing in taking away the governor’s right to name a successor and the wrong thing in not allowing for an interim. Once you get past the partisan squabbling over who’s the bigger hypocrite, the only real issue is whether Patrick might appoint someone who’d then have a leg up in the special election.

Kennedy, in his letter to Patrick, released shortly before his death, asked that the interim be someone who would promise not to run. Patrick has said that would be his goal. All that’s missing is a name. As I and others have said, former governor Michael Dukakis would be a fine choice, but I’m sure he’s not the only possibility.

With the health-care debate reaching a critical moment in Washington, Massachusetts deserves to have full representation.

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  1. Newshound

    Politics and principles make strange bedfellows.

    By principle alone, the vote in the Senate is to be cast by a person selected by the voters, not the governor. It is apparent the selection of an interim Senator is fundamentally for one vote on one particular controversial issue. If it were a ho-hum year it wouldn’t be nearly so polarized.

    Selecting an interim is politically motivated at the expense of principle.

    However, if Senator Kennedy had fallen ill this year instead of last, he would be voting in the senate and we all know how he’d cast his vote. An attempt to reverse that is sort of opportunistic.

    However, applying conjecture again, had Senator Kennedy fallen ill two years ago and a Republican had been elected, which is not as likely, we can pretty much guess how that vote would go, too.

    Selecting the person to vote in the senate is the property of the voters of Massachusetts. It is not the property, by principle, of the governor or Democrat politicians.

    Changing the law is exploitive and puts more value on politics than principle.

    But, the governor first making known and agreeing to his choice if the law is changed, at least distributes the selection process and is a very small but nevertheless important step in the right direction.

  2. sco

    I’m not sure I can think of a better idea to derail the process. Doesn’t that change the debate to whether it benefits Massachusetts to have two Senators to whether the designee would be a good/deserving/appropriate choice?

  3. Aaron Read

    I think Dukakis would be a fine choice, but frankly I’d rather see him replace Kennedy via an election and stay as a senator for a while.

    Granted, his age (75) would be a liability in an institution where it takes 20 years before you get any good committee assignments. But you can’t deny that he’d make a fine senator…well, certain a fine senator for Massachusetts. At least for one or two terms.

    Draft the Duke!

  4. Neil

    Dan argues that announcing Patrick’s selection for interim Senator would break the impasse by giving those opposed to having an interim Senator, a compelling reason to change their minds. What is that reason?

    • Dan Kennedy

      By announcing his choice ahead of time, legislators would be able to assess whether that person is likely to run in the special election or not. That’s really the only concern I’ve heard. If Gov. Patrick chooses Michael Dukakis, and Dukakis appears at his side and promises to serve five months and not seek election, then there’s no longer any reason for concern.

  5. Dunque

    No cause for concern unless you consider that there is no legally binding promise that can be given.

    Announcing the interim choice without having the authority sounds more than a little banana republican to me.

  6. Peter Porcupine

    DK – if he chooses anyone now, then 99.44% will know it’s not THEM – so why would they vote for it? :~)

  7. Newshound

    Anyone serious about seeking the nomination best get their running shoes on very quickly. There’s not normally much sense in running and losing and running and winning is a major project beginning right now.

    By the time a potential fill-in person is selected it should be around the deadline for filing nomination papers.

  8. Al

    I too, think that Mike Dukakis would be a fine interim replacement in the seat of the late Ted Kennedy. His politics would make him a desirable full term senator, but his age, and more important, his stage in life, make it viable only as a short term fill in. Think of it this way, should we maintain the status quo, and leave the seat empty until the election, can you envision any circumstance where he would decide to undertake a campaign to gain the seat? No, I think he is happy with his life as it is, and would only take an interim appointment, nothing longer.

  9. lkcape

    If Dan’s idea is such a great one, why not go all the way?

    Change the law to read that the Governor must appoint a senate replacement as part of his swearing-in ceremony so that there will never be any question as to who an interim Senator might be. The electorate need only then wait until a Senate vacancy occurs. No need for these pesky elections.

  10. Treg

    Wingnuts really like railing against “banana republics.” Except when it comes to the real ones they always favor propping up.

    Please understand, there WILL be an election here, people. And soon. In the meantime, we’re looking for an INTERIM replacement, so that Massachusetts doesn’t go without full representation. That would be somewhat “banana republican.”

  11. lkcape

    Treg, you’re always quick with the wingnut accusations.

    This is more a question of having an elections determine our representation expediently as opposed to having to put up with one of the hacks that populate the political “elite” of the not-so Commonwealth in the interim.

    But those who like thumbs on the scales really prefer that it is their own.

    Sorry, I prefer democracy to demagoguery.

  12. Dunque

    Treg, apparently the definition of a banana republic escapes you.

    But let me remind you – there is no legally binding promise that can be given to not run if one is appointed as interim senator. So the appointee would have every right to do as he or she pleased once appointed.

    Second, and more importantly, the governor has no such right to do make the appointment in the first place. Taking THAT action would very much be akin to a banana republic.

    Much like Zelaya in Honduras seeking to override constitutional safeguards against his continued rule. Although in this topsy turvy world we’re calling his removal a “coup.” Although it’s mandated in the Honduran constitution.

    Anyway, try to stick to the topic. Not sure where “wingnut” came from or why you felt it was necessary. The lack of authority to make an appointment and the inability to hold anyone to a promise are serious issues.

    There will be an election here soon. Why don’t we just let it happen.

    We haven’t had full representation for a year.

  13. I thought the law said we vote.

  14. Good point. I have admired some of the people who have admitted that changing the law was a mistake in the first place. That said, the Democrats are rushing to try and get this done and health care is going to be delayed at least until Thanksgiving, according to sources. So, what’s another month and a half? The Senate race will be decided the first week of January. There’s no need to appoint someone.

  15. lkcape

    Tony, there is a rush to those who feel that their ideas can’t compete fairly in the marketplace.

    In many ways, this is “pay back” time for those who feel that George Bush won in 2000 and 2004 and fail to realize that their chosen ones, Gore and Kerry actually LOST the slam-dunk elections that was THEIRS to lose.

    It’s fear that they may lose again.

  16. Neil

    The law does say we vote in a special election.

    The change in law would allow the Gov to pick an interim.

    No one wants the interim to have an unfair advantage in the election so they’re trying to figure out how they can get the interim to be excluded, in a manner that passes Constitutional muster.

    The first major deadline, Oct. 20, is less than two months away. That’s when candidates vying for their party’s nomination must deliver the signatures of at least 10,000 voters to local officials for certification to secure a spot on the Dec. 8 primary ballot.

    The final election is just six weeks later on Jan. 19. LINK

    If the Gov gets the authority he’ll pick the interim on or after Oct 20 from a pool that does not include major party challengers.

  17. Bob Gardner

    If full representation is really the issue, any law should include a provision to replace any senator (or maybe any congressman) who becomes incapacitated. Unless you think flying someone in on a stretcher every three months is all the “full represenation” that the commonwealth needs.

  18. lkcape

    We can take this to it’s logical, but ridiculous, conclusion and insist that every Senator has a stand-in to rush to the Senate floor in case the Senator is detained in the restroom.

    That way, the fine citizens of the not-so-Commonwealth of Political Hacks will never be without a puppet on the string.

  19. O-FISH-L

    How can Patrick announce his interim choice when Ted Kennedy and other Dems made sure the Governor has no choice in this matter? To announce before the law is tampered with again would show an arrogance and cockiness that even Patrick might not want to display in public.

    Since any appointee is going to vote strictly as the party orders anyway, why not spare the expense and just give John Kerry two votes for a few months?

    Stationery, office costs and staff, business cards, website, travel, housing etc. for a few months. Are you kidding me? Not to mention the costly lifetime of perks that come with just one day, er one second of service in the US Senate.

    As for Dukakis, wasn’t he essentially chased out of public life in this country 20 something years ago when the “Massachusetts Miracle” was exposed as the mirage that it was? Elevating him to the US Senate is almost akin to retiring Johnny Pesky’s number. An undeserved honor for someone who tried to hang around too long. Retire for God’s sake! As the Democrat standard bearer said here in 1990, “When your ripe, it’s time to go.”

  20. lkcape

    Fish… Kerry may flip-flop on any given issue…that and he may take a 2-year sabbatical to see if there is enough interest for him to consider thinking about setting up an exploratory committee to test the waters for his running for President. Theresa’s jet is too small for his ego.

  21. Brad Deltan

    Personally I always thought voting was overrated as a means of picking a qualified leader.

    Now the Thunderdome? THAT’S a quality method of picking a leader. Two pols enter, one pol leaves! 🙂

  22. lkcape

    Has its possibilities… one less hack running around.

  23. Phil G.

    A massachusetts senator will no tb emissed over the next several months. The Obama agenda healthcare and cap and trade agenda are dead for the moment not because of republican opposition but because he cannot get his own party to endorse them. Let’s hope th elegislature has brains enough not to heap more scorn upon the institution. Let the voters make the choice.

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