Liberal Groups Call for Appointee in Mass.
By Ben Pershing
A coalition of liberal groups is urging Massachusetts political leaders to honor one of the last wishes of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) by changing state law to allow for the appointment of a temporary successor.
Momentum has been building since Kennedy's death for a change in the law, which was written in 2004 to ban such appointments and would require the Senate seat to remain vacant until a special election is held in late January. Kennedy himself wrote to Gov. Deval Patrick (D) earlier this month requesting that the law be changed so his state would have full representation during the ongoing debate over health-care reform.
Now MassVOTE, which calls itself "a non-partisan voting rights organization," has launched a Web site, WeNeedTwo.org, asking readers to "[s]ign our petition to the Massachusetts Legislature to honor Ted Kennedy's legacy by taking steps to ensure an immediate, temporary appointment who won't run in the election to fill Massachusetts's second Senate seat. Massachusetts needs two voting members in the Senate, and our elected officials need to do what they can to keep our commonwealth represented."
Supporting the effort are several liberal-leaning groups, including the state branches of the Service Employees International Union and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
Patrick has endorsed the idea of changing the law, and leaders in the state Legislature are reportedly warming to the idea as well. But a spokeswoman for the office of the state Senate president said there would be no movement or announcements on the issue today, out of deference to the Kennedy family.
Republicans have accused Democrats of hypocrisy for supporting a change in state law, given that the current restrictions were implemented when Mitt Romney (R) was governor and Democrats feared that he would be able to appoint a successor to Sen. John Kerry (D) if Kerry won the 2004 presidential contest.
Regardless of whether the law is changed, a special election will occur to fill Kennedy's seat. William Galvin, the Massachusetts secretary of state, has proposed that the election occur on Jan. 19 or 26, with the primary balloting on Dec. 8 or 15.
August 28, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
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