Gov. Patrick Seeks Power To Appoint Kennedy Successor

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick supports a change in state law that would allow him to appoint an interim successor to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, he told WBUR in an interview Wednesday.

“I believe that the senator’s request to permit the governor to appoint someone to serve for that five months until a special election was entirely reasonable,” Patrick told WBUR. “I think particularly now when you think about the momentous change legislation that is pending in the Congress today, Massachusetts needs two voices. ”

When the governor was pushed to say whether that meant he would urge the Legislature to pass a bill allowing him to appoint a successor, Patrick said yes, and that he would sign the bill.

Unlike most states, a successor to a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts is chosen by special election five months after the opening — not appointed by the governor.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, who represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate for 46 years, died at home in Hyannisport on Tuesday night at the age of 77.

In a recent letter to lawmakers, Kennedy asked that the law be changed to allow the governor to appoint someone to the seat during the course of the election, provided that person pledge not to run for the seat.

Click the “Listen Now” button above to hear WBUR’s full conversation with Gov. Patrick on Sen. Kennedy’s passing.

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  • Rick

    I find it totally wrong that they would change this law to give the governor the ability to appoint someone. I found it disgusting that they changed it before to protect Kerry’s seat and find it even more disgusting now. This is nothing but a political stab at power. If they do this for Kennedy why not do it for other Senator’s that are to ill to make it to vote? Being an independent I find this grab for power unacceptable but then again this is Massachusetts.

  • tom rogers

    Im Amazed at the insulting way politicians love to change laws or thier minds to suit themselves Do not let this happen!!

  • Thomas McCarthy

    Hello from Ireland, WBUR. Kennedy was the best of the brothers. He knew how to lead rather than manage, he knew how to be for the blue collar American despite the wealth. What a joy it was, once, to be poor and yet full of hope. Don’t ever lose that feeling. Don’t ever lose it, South Boston. Our hearts are broken in Ireland. Kennedy was the first broker of peace. In my yard the Irish flag is flying at half-mast.
    Thomas McCarthy, Cork, Ireland

  • Annlinnea

    I never thought I cared emotionally about politicians et al, and grew up the next town over from Berkeley Heights, but Teddy’s passing pauses me in a teary way — for so many reasons…. he screwed up and ended his life redeemed (I am still trying to redeem my own screwups) — but even more, he is the end of a generation of role model/leaders that seemed in public to never lose sight of what could be best in us if only we kept at it……….. why the european model on healthcare and higher education has not been adopted by us sorrows me, and like the invasion of Iraq is so very sad and inevitable and karmic and whatever, but if there is a God I pray that somehow our nation gets its act together…………. the family, at least for my generation, matters, like a classic novel of life, good wishes and prayers and thoughts for them and for us all

  • Peter Smith

    As a transplanted Irishman I have always had a great admiration and respect for Sen. Kennedy as a champion of the little guy and a great friend to Ireland. He enetered the Senate the year I was born and I am in awe that he has for the last 47 years been a strong and consistent voice for causes that were never very popular and which rarely enjoyed any corporate or big-business support. He also demonstrated, in an age of overly partisan politics, that there is always an opportunity to engage and partner with those who might not philosophically agree with your views. He did so with great dignity and respect and he was loved for it. Take your fight to a higher plain Mr. Kennedy and we are all better for your having been on this earth.

  • Carol O’Day

    When a venture of grave importance to the nation suddenly loses one link in the creative and decisionmaking process, won’t we at least do what happens in business? Appoint the best possible replacement project manager/team leader, continuing the line of reasoning, so that we, The Public, see the process continue ethically toward a well-reasoned solution. Ted Kennedy can’t be replaced, but intelligent people must be willing to try to fill his place for a short time.

  • Patricia Nitchman

    As an obsessive WBUR listener, supporter, and long time resident of MA and NH, I have tremendous respect for Senator Kennedy’s many years of service. I am not pleased, however, with the totally over the top coverage of his not unexpected death. NPR is looking like CNN (all hysteria, repeated over and over all day and all night) and that does not encourage me to make my next contribution. What are you thinking?? There is other news – so just cut it out.

  • Dan Tokar

    What impressed me over the years was how he grew into his role starting from a very low point (notwithstanding his family). I worked next to the statehouse when he was a legislator there, and would often lunch at the Beacon Hill Kitchen on Joy St., where he often appeared to be in his cups. During his first run for the Senate his opponent, during a debate, said that if his name were Edward Moore and not Edward Moore Kennedy, he would not be on the platform. And from all that he grew to be one of the most influential Senators of our time. He will be sorely missed.

  • http://WBUR.org B Brunkhorst

    Ted Kennedy was a great role model that I hope and pray people who are currently representing us will learn from. His kind of drive and ‘never say die’ attitude was so special. He always stood up for those who do not have a voice- we need someone to do that again. His message of hope and can do attitude must be taught to our children. He was so human yet so powerful. Let us never forget him!

  • Lisa Azeni

    Annlinnea said it very eloquently. In addition, for those who shout “foul” to an interim replacement (although Kennedy could never be replaced), if it’s at all possible to get this country on track, then we should make every effort – especially in this financial climate. This is hardly the first exception to a rule. And I hope that anyone complaining about the extensive coverage of such an honorable man will remember how much time was devoted to tributes to a recently deceased music celebrity.

  • Chip H.

    Back to the topic of appointing a replacement: I’m not sure what the first two respondents are so concerned about. Firstly, other states’ governors appoint interim replacements for vacated seats. Secondly, why would we want one of our precious Senate votes to be lost for any period of time. I suppose, if the state’s governor and the lost senator were policy foes, the governor could change the states vote in the national Senate. In this case, we know that wouldn’t be true, that the direction that Sen. Kennedy would vote would not be hijacked by a Patrick appointee. Lastly, the proposition is only for the matter of a few months until a special election would be had by us, and the appointee could not run, so there would be no lasting power grab. Perhaps the protesters are wanting a silenced Kennedy vote in upcoming legislation- a power grab by omission?

  • Mary LeGrow

    I would like the following question answered or discussed.

    Because Senator Kennedy has died the senate seat is now vacant and there is a law for how his sucessor will be determined. Does the process begin when the Senator expired and can a new law change that process?

  • Sam Purushotham

    It is impossible to “sum up” Senator Kennedy’s life’s achievements. I cannot imagine any legislator who has an imprint on so many major bills that have made the lives of millions of the less fortunate citizens of this country so much better. The Civil Rights Bill, Minimum wage, the bill for the disabled, the plight of immigrants, are just a few of them. For him “Liberal” was not a dirty word. He wore it on his lapel proudly. He was the barometer of the left. Truly a giant. I have been hearing all day about his various small acts of kindness to countless ordinary people without fanfare. I will miss his forthrightness, which I wish more politicians would emulate. He will be warmly welcomed in the life beyond.

  • Andree Robert

    I am proud to be from Massachussetts. I can think of no other state that would give their senator the green light on such a compassionate “liberal” agenda. We will never find a replacement for Ted Kennedy, but we have to try to find a senator who will fight for the little people. He was, after all, the lone voice.

  • Tom Johnson

    Ted’s passing gives rise to strong emotions, from deep sadness from those who understand his political genius and its legacy, to glee from those who love the darkness that his passing will cause in seanate chambers.Watch for the opportunists to argue against a swift temporary replacement in favor of an empty democratic senate seat during critcal health care debates. Maybe The governor might appoint Republican Mitt Romney, a Massachusetts resident (I think) as a temporary, because he championed health care reform in MA and would be prohibited from running if he accepts the interim appointment. Who knows!

  • http://www.marbleangranite.com Gian Luca Fiori

    It’s outrageous how the politicians think. They are the only one’s that can think of changing the laws at their convenience and, they are good at that. I firmly believe that they should have terms so, they can go to work and learn how the rest of the world functions.

  • Jim Walsh

    Change the law. We need every vote at this crucial time.

    And don’t forget for a moment, the other side’s goal is to cripple the President, defeat his every initiative, and to have no compunction whatsoever about lying, cheating, and acting like Brown Shirts at public meetings.

    I can see the glisten of crocodile tears in their eyes, shed for the notion of( Republican) fair play.

    Jim Walsh, Nahant, MA

  • Ayanna McKinnon

    With regard to the topic- I regret that the first two comments shown here are so oddly negative. I too am confused by their response. We, the people, should be represented in matters of importance. We have lost our voice- our lion’s voice. We deserve nothing less than someone to stand in for the time being. Teddy deserves nothing less. He lived his life in service to us. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him to finally let go of us and come to terms with the fact that it would not be his voice representing us going forward. There is too much at stake to simply say “it’s not fair to change the laws just because we have a reason.” There are important issues on the table and our senate vote should not be lost! There is so much to be lost if we don’t have a temporary appointed representative- yet, conversely, what do we risk?

  • Ayanna McKinnon

    And it should not be overlooked that other states embrace this practice. It is not unreasonable in any way shape or form.

  • Kim

    I wholeheartedly disagree with allowing the governor to appoint an interim senator. They just changed the law 5 years ago to prevent this from happening when it was a Republican governor. This is the ultimate in hypocrisy! If they hadn’t changed the law back then to protect their power, this wouldn’t even be an issue. They should not be allowed to claim that it’s crucial that Mass have 2 senate votes because obviously it wasn’t important to them 5 years ago. This is a disgustingly transparent display of power grabbing and it’s insulting to all of us, no matter what our political affiliation, to suggest that you can just change the law every time your power is threatened. That they can even consider this without embarrassment speaks to the arrogance of politicians.

  • Anne Medinus

    The United States of America has lost A Man of the People! Even at the point of death he did not put himself first, rather, he worried about getting a health care reform law passed in congress and as a result, requested that the Massachusetts Governor and legislature modify the law and move swiftly to replace him temporarily. What a great Man! You’d think some one so powerful will ignore the little people but he didn’t. My experience with him is proof of his magnanimity. In 1995 I had a premature baby and wanted my mom to come and help me, so that I would go back to work after the twelve weeks family leave were exhausted. The immigration office at the US Embassy in Victoria Island, Nigeria gave my mom an appointment for a visa interview in six months, which would mean my staying home, since no day care center would accept my premmie. I called Senator Kennedy’s office and one of his staff requested that I send them my request in writing, so, I sent it by fax. Two days later, my mom got a visa and came to my rescue. We have all lost a great man. May God rest his soul!

  • Andrew S. Harris

    I believe that the governor should be able to appoint a person to assume the open seat for senator until a special election is held. This person should be ineligible for the election. It is important that Massachusetts be represented by two senators at this time.

  • http://chelseama.gov Karen Budrow

    Yes, have the governor appoint. The State should have no gap in representation as we have only 2 Senators and each vote is vital. Further, we should be represented by the party that won the seat. I would not want a Republican to replace a voted in Democrat and vica versa.
    Laws are frequently made and changed – we even amend the constitution! Times change, maybe the law should have been written differently from the start.

  • Paul Eaton

    Yes, the Gov should have that power. As a voter in Massachusetts I demand representation as defined by constitutional laws. In other words, Massachusetts should always have two voting members in congress. There is no justification to argue otherwise.

  • Dini Healy-Coffin

    If the Governor of Massachusetts were a Republican and would possibly appoint a Republican to replace Senator Kennedy for 5 months would we be having this discussion? I think not. Let the law “as is” guide us through this process please. It’s the fair thing to do.

  • Judith Flashman

    I am totally devasted at the passing of our beloved Senator Kennedy, whose life made such a difference in mine and all of the citizens of this country. Without his presence in the Senate our lives would not be as good as they are today. I sincerely hope that each of us takes a page from his book and makes a difference in the life of another person. Hopefully contributions will be made in his memory to the organization of his choice and each of us will contact all the Senators and Representatives in Congress to work together to get a good health insurance passed. It will only work if it is bipartisan. I am in full support of Governor Patrick appointing someone to fill the Senator’s seat until an election can be held. That person should represent Kennedy’s positions and be experienced.

  • Kim

    Ted Kennedy hasn’t voted in the last 5 months, so we’ve already been without representation. I respect him as much as the next guy, but this is not about honoring him, this is about adhering to the law, which incidentally he led the charge on changing 5 years ago when it served him politically. What happens the next time we have a Republican governor? Will they want to change it back again??

  • Eric McNulty

    So long as the interim appointee is barred from running for the seat in the special election, the law should be changed to allow one. We all deserve continuity of representation. As long as the stipulation above, requested by Sen. Kennedy, is included the appointment would not allow for a power grab. The people of the Commonwealth would be able to elect a Democrat, Republican, or Martian in the special election if they so choose.

  • Cynthia Bauman

    It’s vital to have an interim senator until the special election gives us a permanent one for the remainder of Kennedy’s 6 year term. Just because the legislature didn’t put this provision in 5 years ago doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do the right thing now. The interim senator should be someone who will not run in the special election. The legislature should act on this immediately so we can have two senators to vote for health care reform.

  • Pat Clark

    I think it’s totally appropriate for Gov. Patrick to appoint someone to the Senate to carry on the Kennedy mantle until an election can be held. This was what Sen. Kennedy requested. He has done so very much for our state and for the entire country and I think we owe it to him to grant his final request. I’m really surprised at the vehemence of the negative reaction.

  • Pat Piper-Smyer

    Senator Kennedy’s death leaves a huge hole in the battle for, among many other worthy causes, healthcare reform. Senator Kennedy clearly wished for a quick temporary replacement so that his vote on crucial healthcare matters would not be lost. The voters of Massachusetts will have their say in January, but in the meantime the law should be changed so that Governor Patrick can appoint a person to fulfill that role for the intervening months only. Time is a-wasting.

  • Frank

    For those that are arguing to have two Senate voices at all times, why haven’t you voiced your opposition to the law that says otherwise for the past five years?

  • Nancy

    The governor should appoint an a person to serve in the interim, who is barred from being a candidate in the special election. This appears to be a good compromise to make sure that Massachusetts fully represented in the current work on health care reform. A special election ensures that the governor’s power is limited.

  • http://jeanmort2@comcast.net David Mortensen

    The Legislature should put aside partisan pettiness and instead should spedily approve Sen. Kennedy’s request to adopt a procedure for apointing an interim successor to serve until a special election can be held. There is one basic answer to those among us who seem unable to resist retorting cynically that such a procdure should not be established simply because the Democrats objected when a similar program was last proposed. That answer is: if it was a good idea then (and it was) , then it is a good idea now. The business at hand is too important to leave the state without two voices in the Senate. Most other states have this or a similar procedure. The cynical approach prevents us from ever adopting a useful and much needed reform. No system is perfect, but leaving the seat vacant unfilled for five months is the worse of two options.

  • Deborah Cake

    Please approve that Governor Patrick can appoint an interim successor to Senator Kennedy until the special election can be held. Massachusetts needs to be fully represented at the Health insurance reform vote in the U.S.Senate this fall.
    Politics is a dog-eat-dog game, but why should the plight of the people go ignored when there is something that can be done?

  • Paul Nelson

    Though passing legislation that would allow the governor to make a ‘temporary appointment’ is a bit hypocritical, the end justifies the means. We need health care reform and adding another senator from Massachusetts to the mix, could be what is needed to make this happen. I cannot think of a better way of honoring Ted Kennedy then helping health care reform succeed!!

  • Warren Ferguson

    I feel so privileged to have listened to all of the wonderful speeches about Ted Kennedy over the weekend. Among the scores of accolades for his personal attention to support those in need, I offer this:
    I was privileged to participate in the Senator’s press conference to launch his campaign to have Massachusetts be the first state to pass SCHIP after the federal bill. This took place at the Family Health Center of Worcester in 1996. We happened to have a tutoring program for homeless students and students also learned photography. We matted and framed a gift for the Senator, a portrait photographed by a student of his grandfather including a paragraph he wrote about his grandfather. When the student presented to the Senator, Ted asked the student to read what he had written. The student had a very difficult time reading. Rather than rescue him, Ted encouraged him and gave him all of his attention, as if they were the only two people in the room. I will never forget that moment and it has helped me as a leader to learn what it takes to lead, encouraging others to their best and believing in them.

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