Senate elections’ dates set

September 11, 2009
By

John Ruch

Both local US reps. may run

Special elections have been scheduled for December and January to fill the US Senate seat formerly held for nearly 50 years by Edward Kennedy, who died last month. Jamaica Plain’s two congressmen, Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch, are among the likely candidates for the Senate seat, which will be filled by special elections in December and January.

A statewide primary election will be held Dec. 8, followed by the final election on Jan. 19. With the Senate race following close on the heels of Boston’s municipal voting, local voters are facing four major elections in as many months.

The only formally announced candidates for the Senate seat so far are state Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, and Canton Selectman Bob Burr, a Republican.

But US Reps. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch have both pulled nomination papers. Capuano told the Gazette on Wednesday that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he intends to run and will make a formal announcement next week.

Capuano represents most of JP. Lynch represents small portions of Forest Hills, Woodbourne and Jamaica Hills. Both are Democrats. Lynch did not return a Gazette phone call.

“It’s really about who’s in the best position to pick up the standard of Ted Kennedy,” Capuano told the Gazette. “Not replace him—no one can do that,” Capuano said. “I am not Ted Kennedy. There will be no other Ted Kennedy.” But the goal should be to continue Kennedy’s progressive politics, Capuano said, adding that he has the best record of actually delivering on such issues.

Capuano also has a track record of following a Kennedy in office. The former Somerville mayor won his 8th Congressional District seat a decade ago after it was vacated by Joe Kennedy, the nephew of Sen. Kennedy.

Capuano said he wants the Senate seat as a way to have more policy influence as a legislator. “If I had more seniority in the House, I probably wouldn’t be doing this,” he said.

Asked about Lynch, Capuano said, “Stephen is a good man…He’d be a wonderful senator, but I respectfully think Stephen doesn’t reflect the Democratic position” on several key issues. Two of the “most telling” issues are the Iraq War, which Capuano opposed and Lynch supported, and abortion rights, which Capuano supports and Lynch opposes.

Capuano said JP voters will be “critical” to winning the Senate seat. “I’m a city guy. I have always thought people who live in urban areas are at the wrong end of the stick,” he said, calling on such voters to turn out for this and all other elections.

If a congressman wins the Senate seat, yet another special election to fill the vacant congressional seat could follow, depending on the schedule, according to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office. If the winning congressman resigned before Feb. 1 to join the Senate, a special election to fill his vacant congressional seat would be held. Otherwise, the seat would remain vacant until the normal fall 2010 election.

There is talk of the state legislature granting Gov. Deval Patrick the ability to appoint a temporary successor for Kennedy to the Senate seat between now and the election. Capuano said he supports that idea as a “reasonable compromise” that could be crucial to passing a health reform plan. He declined to discuss any potential appointees.

All states have two seats in the US Senate. Massachusetts’ other Senate seat is held by John Kerry.