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Push To Name Kennedy Successor Gains Momentum05:42
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The push to name a successor to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy gained momentum Monday, with state lawmakers scheduling a hearing on whether to allow an appointee to serve until a special election in January.

Gov. Deval Patrick also said Monday that Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, told him she does not want to be appointed as an interim replacement.

Before he died last week, Kennedy had asked Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law to let the governor name an interim appointee to serve until voters can choose a permanent replacement. Current Massachusetts law does not allow an interim appointee.

WBUR political analyst Dan Payne joined us to discuss potential successors and the coming race for the seat.

Former Congressman Joseph Kennedy II is considered to be the likely Kennedy family candidate, should there be a family candidate. Do you see Joe as a likely candidate?

I really don't know what his intentions are, except that I think he had to have been impressed with what happened over the last four or five days: the outpouring of affection and regard for his uncle — his late uncle — and just the importance of what's called the Kennedy seat, what it has meant to Massachusetts for the last five decades.

So I don't know if he's going to do it, but he wouldn't be human if he didn't think seriously about whether he should do it.

Do you think his timetable is soon?

I expect he will probably want to make his decision public as soon as he can, just to stop the speculation if he isn't going to run and to get a campaign underway if he is.

Also, it would be the decent thing to do for those who are thinking about running, who might think twice if he were a candidate — people like Martha Coakley, there are three members of the delegation who might also be candidates. He might want to give them a little bit of opportunity if he's not going to run to get their campaigns in order, and if he is going to run, to make their minds up.

Let's talk about that. There are many people said to be interested in the seat, you've mentioned a bunch of them: members of Congress Stephen Lynch, Michael Capuano, Ed Markey, State Attorney General Martha Coakley, possibly others. What happens to that field if Joe gets in?

Well, at this point, some of them are saying they will run regardless. I'm not sure I believe that. Once a Kennedy gets into a race like this, you know, it becomes that much more difficult to make phone calls and solicit support — especially since it's so close to Sen. Kennedy's death.

So they'd all have to take a hard look at whether this is going to be a useful exercise for them, and can they win?

You anticipated my next question: Should the outpouring for Sen. Kennedy — the true public grief exhibited in the last few days, and support for the Kennedy family — give real pause to those who might challenge Joe if he decides to get in?

Yes, I expect they would have to think very hard about this. Not only about their own chances, but about whether it would be a good thing to put the state through a bruising battle with a Kennedy over the Kennedy Senate seat.

Given the emotion, is challenging a Kennedy for the seat at this time, maybe, political suicide?

Well I wouldn't call it suicide, but it could be politically damaging, if you don't win. This election is going to take place, we shouldn't forget, over the next five months. So whoever it is that's thinking about it has got to be getting a campaign together pretty quickly, and then running a sprint.

The other factor in all this is going to be money. Can they raise money? Would it be appropriate to spend money on a campaign? When would you want to begin such a campaign?

For Joe Kennedy, these things sort of take care of themselves. But if you're one of the non-Kennedy candidates, or candidates to be, timing becomes very important.

What about Victoria Kennedy, the senator's widow? Sens. Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, both said on a CNN program Sunday that they could support Vicki as an interim senator — if Massachusetts actually passes a law that allows the appointment of an interim senator, as opposed to going directly to a special election.

Do you see Vicki as either an appointed senator, or do you think that she might run in an election?

I think it's much more likely that she would accept an interim position appointed by Gov. Patrick if the law is changed. And I don't see her running in a special election. She has given no hint that she is interested in either position, and I think we should take her at her word for the time being.

Do you see the Massachusetts Legislature changing the law and giving Gov. Patrick the power to appoint an interim senator?

If the legislature is going to act, they're going to have to do so soon. To wait several weeks or a month to make it possible for the governor to appoint someone on an interim basis seems to me to be silly. If they're going to do this, let's do it right away. The idea that we need two votes is important, it's going to be important the minute the Congress gets back in session after September, and they may well be taking up health care reform.

So it's important to have this done soon.

This program aired on August 31, 2009.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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