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Kennedy name looms large in bid to replace late senator

Edward Kennedy's wife or nephew would be instant front-runners in any bid to replace him in the US Senate.

By Tracey D. SamuelsonContributor / August 31, 2009

While walking through a town in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, speaks with Richard Dougherty, of West Long Branch, N.J., who asked Patrick about laws pertaining to the succession of the Senate seat that belonged to Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Steven Senne/AP

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Boston

The question of who will fill Edward Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate has largely become a waiting game.

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Will a Kennedy seek to fill the seat that Senator Kennedy occupied for nearly 47 years?

The two Kennedys seen as most likely to fill the seat – either as a temporary replacement or as a candidate in next year’s special election – are Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the late senator’s wife, and his nephew, Joseph Kennedy II.

Neither has yet expressed interest in the position publicly. But Mrs. Kennedy, known as Vicki, has received public support from her husband’s long-time friends, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah and Chris Dodd (D) of Connecticut.

“Vicki ought to be considered,” Senator Hatch told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “She’s a very brilliant lawyer.”

“If Vicki wants to do it, I’m in her corner,” Senator Dodd added on the same program. “She expressed to me her own sort of reluctance do that. But she could change her mind. If she did, I’m for her.”

The special election to elect a replacement for Kennedy will take place on Jan. 19, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced Monday. But the Massachusetts legislature is expected to amend the current law to allow for a temporary “caretaker” appointee in the five months before that.

The wife

If it does, it would be “good political manners” to offer Vicki the opportunity to serve in her husband’s place, says Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., speaking before Kennedy’s death.

Vicki has also been praised for her grace and strength after her husband’s death and during his prolonged illness. She greeted mourners outside the John F. Kennedy library for hours on Thursday and has reportedly sent hand-written notes to many who expressed their condolences.