President Obama has nominated Massachusetts Senator and former Democratic Presidential candidate John F Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as the 68th U.S Secretary of State, a move that could lead to yet another high stakes Senate race in the Commonwealth.
The President announced the nomination to members of the press Friday afternoon, during a joint appearance with Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House Roosevelt room. In his prepared remarks, the President lauded the five-term lawmaker and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for what he called ‘an extraordinarily distinguished career’.
“Over these many years, John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world,” said the President. “I think it’s safe to say that few individuals know as many Presidents and Prime Ministers or grasps our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.”
Kerry has been a close ally of the administration, especially in global affairs where he helped shepherd through much of the President’s agenda, including the 2010 renewal of the START Treaty on nuclear weapons.
In the lead up to the Presidential debates this past fall, Kerry played the role of Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the Obama campaign’s debate prep sessions. And in 2004, when Kerry himself was the party’s presidential candidate, he gave the then young Illinois State Senator and U.S Senate candidate Barack Obama the task of delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National convention. The speech electrified the audience and political observers alike, giving Obama a national profile four years to run for President.
Kerry has long been talked about as a possible successor to current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has long-planned to leave the Obama administration at the end of its first term.
News of the nomination comes just a week after another possible contender for the top position; U.N Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for the top post. Rice has been heavily criticized by many Republicans for what they allege were misleading statements about the attack on the U.S diplomatic mission in Benghazi by militants that resulted in the death of U.S Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Another Massachusetts Senate Race?
If confirmed by the Senate, Kerry would then resign from the Senate and under Massachusetts state law, a special election would have to be held within 160 days.
Just last month Democrat Elizabeth Warren unseated Incumbent Republican Scott Brown in the most expensive Senate race in Massachusetts history.
Two years earlier Brown, then a state Senator from Wrentham stunned the political world, when he won a special election for the U.S Senate, several months after the death of longtime Massachusetts Democratic Senator and liberal icon Edward M Kennedy.
Now with potentially another vacant senate seat opening up, Brown if he chooses, would be the leading contender to be the Republican candidate in the special election and could be the Republicans best hope to capture a Senate seat in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.
As of yet Brown has not indicated interest in running for the seat. Given the rigor of what would be his third campaign in three years it would be understandable if he did not want to run again. But in a state where Republicans are an endangered species, and those with a strong fundraising prowess, high name recognition, and the ability to ignite enthusiasm among the party base are even more rare.
As for Democrats, the race would be wide open. Massachusetts Democrats are many, but lack a clear front-runner with the high name recognition that can generate the enthusiasm among progressive activists and the state Democratic party establishment to match Brown. Some possible candidates include: U.S Representatives Ed Markey, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch,or State Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield.
Some of the other possible contenders could include Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, Kennedy’s son Edward M Kennedy Jr, or former City Year CEO Alan Khazei, who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in both 2010 and 2012.
Until a special election is held though, under state law Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who has said he is not interested in the senate seat, has the power to appoint a substitute to occupy the seat until a special election can be held. Patrick has indicated the fill-in would likely be someone not interested in running for a full term who could act as a caretaker.
Possibilities for such a fill could include Kennedy, Edward M Kennedy Jr, or former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis among a long list of others.