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MA-Senate: A New Entrant?

Massachusetts Democratic insiders are buzzing about the possibility that Steve Pagliuca, a managing director at Bain Capital and managing partner of the Boston Celtics, is giving serious consideration to a run in the special election race to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Two Democratic strategists with close ties to Bay State politics confirmed that Pagliuca is a potential candidate and, if he ran, would have the capacity to self-fund the race.

Pagliuca has been with Bain -- the same firm that produced Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) -- since 1982.

Pagliuca's candidacy would fit nicely into the blueprint for past competitive Democratic primaries for statewide office in Massachusetts where at least one wealthy, self-financing candidate challenges a handful of elected officials. (See Chris Gabrieli's run for governor in 2006, for example.)

In a short special election -- the Dec. 8 primary is just 85 days away -- money can play an outsized role in the outcome. Personal money means television ads which mean name identification which is the coin of the realm in what is expected to be a very low turnout affair.

If Pagliuca got into the race, it would do much to shake up what has been a surprisingly low-key contest so far to replace Kennedy.

Many of the major players -- former Rep. Joe Kennedy II as well as Reps. Marty Meehan and Ed Markey -- who had long been expected to jump into any Senate race in the state have taken passes, leaving a field that is regarded by some veteran operatives as less than stellar.

The current field consists of just three candidates -- state Attorney General Martha Coakley and Reps. Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano. (Rep. John Tierney announced he wouldn't run earlier today.) City Year co-founder Alan Khazei is also looking at the race and many people in the state expect him to run.

If the field remains as is, Coakley is widely regarded as the clear frontrunner as she is the best known candidate of the trio and is also the only one with an existing statewide organization.

There remains the possibility -- discussed in whispers among the Democratic smart set in the state -- that either Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator, or Ted Kennedy Jr., his son, may ultimately decide to get into the race although neither of them have shown the slightest interest to date.

"How long does it take buyer's remorse to set in that the first competitive Senate primary in 25 years to fill the seat of a 47 year legend has drawn so few compelling characters and the activist base tries one last time to draft a Kennedy into the race," wondered one senior Democratic strategist.

Ted Kennedy Jr., who recently said he had thought of running for office at some point in the future, is sure to be asked about his interest in stepping into his father's seat during an interview tonight with CNN's Larry King.

Pagliuca's potential candidacy coupled with the level of uncertainty that -- still -- exists about the possibility of a "Kennedy" being on the ballot means that there are more twists and turns to come in Massachusetts in the days ahead.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 14, 2009; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

What is not needed in congress is a Senator for Bain Capital. MA should elect a Senator to represent the citizens of the state. We are going to need finance reform. Pagliuca would be ill disposed to that.

Posted by: Gator-ron | September 14, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Like MikeinMidland, I feel that the Fix constantly mentioning "Vicki" and "Ted Jr." as possible candidates in MA, even thought they have both said no more than once, is a simplistic drama that seems to both feed a latent Kennedy-bashing-fervor (like whack-a-mole: they are baited and waiting for a Kennedy head to appear) AND titilate an anxiety that one won't run and all the fun will be gone.

I had another post submitted, but I seem to have said something no-no and been sent for review, so I have rephrased my thought with a different metaphor.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 14, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Really, Fix keeps trotting out these whispers he's hearing about "Vicki" running. That or TK Jr. I think they have both said no. A couple of times. And again after a little time elapsed, still No.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 14, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I realize there are a lot of wops in Massachusetts, but only an Irishman would do as a replacement for Ted Kennedy.

Posted by: ravitchn | September 14, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Obviously Massachusetts is too blue for the Republican candidates to be taken seriously.

Ted Kennedy was a favorite liberal icon for conservatives to bash. To have a Kennedy take the seat would therefore be a silver lining for the GOP.

Teasing the poor GOP with the false hope that the Kennedy dynasty will continue in the Senate is not truly a pro-Republican position, it just makes them feel better in the short run.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 14, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone other than "mikeinmidland" guess how the above thread is "pro-Republican"? I just can't see it.

Posted by: JakeD | September 14, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

The Kennedy sons just said no didn't they?
Vicki has said no.
Pagliuca can get great Celtics seats.
It's a slam dunk.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | September 14, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Good observation Andy. It's about intensity of turnout vs. statewide recognition. Coakley has won statewide, but surely Democratic activists are familiar with Capuano?

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 14, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Special elections are about turnout and that is even more true in the democratic primary for the seat. I don't see TV ads effecting the liberal base that will ultimately decide who will go on to face the GOP's sacrificial lamb. If the liberal base does get its vote in then I would say it will be between Capuano and Coakley, and I would give the edge to Capuano since he has the Democratic stronghold of Cambridge and Somerville on his side.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 14, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Interesting.

Posted by: JakeD | September 14, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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