With Joe Kennedy out, Senate race wide open

With no Kennedy in the running, expect a crowded Democratic field.

By , Staff writer

The long Labor Day weekend was no vacation for those considering a bid to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy’s seat in the US Senate.

Joseph Kennedy II, after nearly two weeks of silence, announced Monday that he will not run for the Senate seat that has borne his family’s name for all but two of the last 60 years.

Mr. Kennedy’s pass means the Democrats are likely to have a crowded ballot for the Dec. 8 primary.

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The race to come

Monday’s annual Greater Boston Labor Breakfast provided indications of the race to come. Attorney General Martha Coakley – currently the sole official candidate on the Democratic side – spoke to the crowd of union members and shook hands outside the breakfast venue.

Reps. Michael Capuano, Edward Markey, and Stephen Lynch were also in attendance, although Mr. Kennedy, in an inkling of his announcement later in the day, was not.

Representative Lynch said he was “likely” to announce his candidacy this week. Mr. Markey said he was trying to decide whether he’d make a greater impact if he remained in the House, where he has served for more than 30 years and has seniority.

Mr. Capuano, perhaps already campaigning, seemed to warn union members to be wary of unnamed competitors. “When it comes time to make the tough decisions, that's when you start to figure who's with you and who's not," he said. He said Tuesday that he had picked up nomination papers and would make an announcement about his intentions next week, according to the Associated Press.

Markey, Capuano, and Rep. John Tierney had previously said that they would defer to Kennedy, if the former Representative decided to run. Marty Meehan, also a former Representative and the current chancellor of the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, was also waiting on Kennedy’s decision. But on late Tuesday, he announced that he will not run.

GOP's slimmer pickings

By contrast, Bob Burr, a selectman from Canton, Mass. and a relative unknown, is the sole GOP member to declare his candidacy thus far.

Republican and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey announced this weekend that she will not run in January’s special election. In a statement Sunday, Ms. Healey cited family considerations – she has two teenage children – as her primary reason.

After serving as Gov. Mitt Romney’s lieutenant, Healy ran to replace him as Massachusetts governor in 2006, losing to Deval Patrick (D) by 21 percentage points in a largely self-financed campaign.

Other potential GOP candidates include state Sen. Scott Brown, who is “testing the waters” for a campaign.

Under federal election law, Senator Brown has 15 days after crossing a $5,000 fundraising mark to declare his candidacy. In the meantime, he is allowed to use those preliminarily funds for polling and other resources to ascertain whether a campaign would be viable. Brown is expected to make a public announcement about his candidacy in the next week.

Former US Attorney Michael Sullivan and Andrew Card, who was chief of staff under President George W. Bush, are also thought to be considering a bid for Kennedy’s seat.

Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox pitcher, has also said he’s thinking about running, though he admits, “I have zero experience in passing a piece of legislation.”

This story has been updated at 4:30 p.m. ET.

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