BOSTON – For the first time in nearly half a century, Massachusetts voters will be handed ballots for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Edward Kennedy without his name on them.
The long list of potential candidates to replace him in the seat once held by President John F. Kennedy includes congressmen, former prosecutors and, perhaps, one of Edward Kennedy’s nephews.
Kennedy’s death leaves little mourning time for the dozen or more Senate hopefuls who face a five-month dash to election day.
State law requires a special election no sooner than 145 days and no later than 160 days after a vacancy occurs. The law bans an interim appointee. In this case, the election must be held either the last two weeks of January or the first week of February.
Primaries must be held six weeks before the special election, giving Democratic and Republican candidates little more than three months to campaign for their party’s nomination.
“That is a very short period of time to be able to mount an attempt to garner one of these precious seats,” said Paul Watanabe, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. The tight window will favor candidates with name recognition and hefty campaign war chests, he added.
An open senate seat in Massachusetts is a rare political prize. Kennedy held his seat for 47 years. Fellow Democrat Sen. John Kerry was elected in 1984.
“No one will replace Ted Kennedy in their first year, but Democrats at least want someone who reflects his basic policy positions,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.
Despite speculation that Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, could assume his Senate seat, family aides have said she is not interested in replacing her husband.