No Ben Affleck? That's OK, Massachusetts Senate race still poised to be big.
If John Kerry's seat needs to be filled next year, it will be the fourth time Massachusetts voters have chosen Senate candidates in a six-year period. Actor-director Ben Affleck said Monday he won't run.
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The other 14 states, including Massachusetts, have chosen to fill vacancies with special elections. Most of these states, in addition, provide for the governor to appoint an interim senator until the special election is held, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.Skip to next paragraph
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In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has said he would follow a pattern he set in 2009 after the death of Mr. Kennedy, when he appointed an interim senator (Paul Kirk) who had pledged not to run in the special election. By adopting that course, Governor Patrick could avoid playing the controversial role of putting one person on a favored track in the Democratic primary.
Under state law, a special election must be held within 145 to 160 days after a vacancy occurs. If Kerry's appointment is confirmed by the Senate and the vacancy becomes official in January, that would put the vote around midyear.
(Prior to 2004, Massachusetts had the other system – where the governor would appoint somebody to fill a Senate vacancy for the remainder of the term. But Mitt Romney (R) was governor then, and some state lawmakers were concerned that if Kerry were elected president that November, Mr. Romney would appoint a Republican, meaning that Democrats would lose that Senate seat.)
One thing's for sure now: Despite the Bay State being predominantly liberal in its orientation, Democrats won't take this Senate seat for granted.
Brown hasn't declared his intentions yet on the Republican side, but he enjoys name recognition, personal popularity, and a reputation for political moderation and independence. There would also be a factor that helped him in his successful bid in 2010: a lower-turnout environment, when other key races won't be on the ballot. In contrast, last month voting turnout in Massachusetts was driven not just by whether they were enthusiastic about Ms. Warren or Brown, but also by the presidential race, House elections, and several ballot initiatives.
Still, if Brown does run, he wouldn't be a shoo-in. His high approval ratings among voters didn't push him over the top against Warren.
Democrats who might seek to replace Kerry include Reps. Edward Markey, Michael Capuano, and Stephen Lynch. Those three are all from the greater Boston area, all have solid credentials as politicians, and all lack the celebrity appeal of Mr. Affleck – judging by the number of Twitter followers.
"I love Massachusetts and our political process, but I am not running for office," Affleck said in a Monday Facebook post that doused a flurry of speculation that he might run. "Right now it's a privilege to spend my time working with Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), supporting our veterans, drawing attention to the great many who go hungry in the U.S. everyday and using filmmaking to entertain and foster discussion about issues like our relationship to Iran."
Affleck, who grew up in Massachusetts, added, "We are about to get a great Secretary of State and there are some phenomenal candidates in Massachusetts for his Senate seat. I look forward to an amazing campaign." Then he signed off with, "Happy Holidays to All."
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