By Jonathan Phelps
---- — After hearing President Barack Obama name Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of state yesterday afternoon, state Rep. Jerry Parisella said the state will once again become the center of national politics as it gears up for a special election.
“When Scott Brown won last time it was a wake up call for the Democratic Party,” he said. “The Democratic Party can’t take the special election for granted, especially if Scott Brown runs again because he is a formidable candidate.”
Parisella, a Beverly Democrat, said he thought Kerry was a good choice as the top diplomat for the Obama administration.
“He is a combat veteran, who served in Vietnam and is the chairman of the foreign relations committee,” Parisella said. “I think he has a lot of depth and breath on foreign policy matters.”
Yesterday’s announcement ended months of speculation about Kerry being selected. If confirmed by the Senate, Kerry would replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who plans to leave Obama’s Cabinet early next year.
Kerry, 69, is expected to be easily confirmed by his Senate colleagues. He has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1985.
Gov. Deval Patrick will likely appoint an interim senator until the special election is held to fill the position. Kerry’s term is up in 2014. Names of possible Democratic candidates include U.S. Reps. Edward Markey, Niki Tsongas, Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano. David Simas, a former top aide to Patrick and Obama, is reportedly considering the race, and there are reports that Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is giving the race consideration.
State Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, agreed that Kerry was the most qualified person in the Senate for the job. While his departure means the state will lose a senior senator, Speliotis said he thinks the Democratic party will land on its feet.
“Massachusetts is a solid Democratic state and we should be able to keep the seat,” he said. “We will lose a little bit of status and prestige, but no matter who goes to the Senate they’ll be a force.”
Like Parisella, Speliotis said the Democratic Party will have to work hard to win a special election.
Dan Mulcare, assistant professor of political science at Salem State University, said the appointment could weaken the Democratic Party if a Republican, like Brown, is elected in Kerry’s place.
“If you are the president, you want to get the best people on your team. But when he appoints a high-profile Democrat to his Cabinet it opens the chance for that seat to be filled by a Republican,” he said. “Having another Republican in the Senate can be a danger for him.”
Mulcare said Brown has name recognition across the state and it might be tough for a Democrat to match his momentum in such a short amount of time.
“He has a very good shot,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say it was a guaranteed shot.”
Calling Kerry an “honorable individual” with a long-record of public service, state House Minority Leader Brad Jones wished Kerry well as he turned his attention to the special election and the process that will be used to fill the seat.
“It is my sincere hope that no further public or private consideration is given to changing the law in Massachusetts as it pertains to appointing an interim United States Senator,” Jones said. “Senator Kerry’s nomination, and all but certain confirmation, sets in motion a law that was last changed in 2009. Regardless of the merits of the way the law was crafted, it is the law and to change it to benefit any one party or individual would be wrong.”
When Kerry ran for president, the Legislature changed the law to allow for a special election in order to prevent Gov. Mitt Romney from appointing a successor for the remainder of the six-year term. When Kerry lost, there was no need for a special election.
Lawmakers changed the law again in 2009, after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, to allow Patrick to make an interim appointment until a special election was held.
Materials from the Associated Press and Statehouse News Service was used in this report.