Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ted Kennedy: Hey, Change the Law for Me

In an apparent sign Ted Kennedy may not be with us much longer, the senior Senator from Massachusetts has asked Governor Deval Patrick to help him pull a fast one and change the law for succession--a law the Democrats themselves changed five years ago when they faced the possibility of John Kerry becoming President and then-Governor Mitt Romney appointing a Republican.

Now, however, Kennedy would like to change the same law the Democrats put in place in 2004.

Nothing like having it both ways.
A cancer-stricken Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has written a poignant letter to Massachusetts leaders asking that they change state law to allow a speedy replacement of him in Congress.

The note has been sent to Gov. Deval Patrick and the state's Senate president and House speaker while Congress considers an overhaul of the nation's health care system, a life cause of Kennedy's.

The letter acknowledges the state changed its succession law in 2004 to require a special election within five months to fill any vacancy. At the time, legislative Democrats — with a wide majority in both chambers — were concerned because then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney had the power to directly fill any vacancy created as Democratic Sen. John Kerry ran for president.

But Kennedy writes "it is vital for this commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election."

While Democrats hold a potentially filibuster-proof margin in Congress, the outcome of a health care reform bill could hinge on a single vote and some moderate Democrats have been wavering.
Speculation has centered on having his wife assume his seat and keeping it in the family. But if there's a special election, as by law there now should be, it's clear Kennedy and the Democrats realize with the swing in public opinion against Barack Obama and Patrick in particular, they could actually face the prospect of losing the seat. Still, chances are likely slim a Republican would win in the very blue state.
Under the current law, the governor must call an election within 145 to 160 days of receiving a resignation letter. A primary would be held five or six weeks beforehand, reducing the time candidates would have to raise money for a campaign.

Besides Joseph Kennedy and Coakley, Democrats who might try to succeed Kennedy include Reps. Stephen Lynch, Michael Capuano, Edward Markey, James McGovern and William Delahunt.

Former Rep. Martin Meehan, now chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, has $4.8 million in his federal campaign account, the largest sum of any potential candidate. That would give him the advantage in any special election sprint.

On the Republican side, potential candidates include Cape Cod businessman Jeff Beatty, former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and Chris Egan, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Cooperation and Development.
As a New Jersey resident, we're more than familiar with Democrats pulling fast ones when faced with the possibility of losing a seat, as the Democrats here pulled the switcheroo several years ago when the corrupt Bob Torricelli faced certain defeat before they jettisoned him and put the cadaver in formaldehyde, Frank Lautenberg, in his place.

Chances are pretty good Patrick will bend to Kennedy's will and do as he's told.
Patrick said in a statement: "It's typical of Ted Kennedy to be thinking ahead and about the people of Massachusetts, when the rest of us are thinking about him."
No, it's more like Ted Kennedy is thinking of himself, just as he did 40 years ago when he left Mary Jo Kopechne to suffer a slow, painful death.

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