SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 16, 2012

Who would replace Kerry?

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Turnover within the Obama administration — expected and otherwise — could create opportunity for a number of prominent North Shore politicos.

The most likely scenario has U.S. Sen. John Kerry taking a cabinet post, as head of either the State or Defense departments. (Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican, said on TV this week that Kerry would have no problem being confirmed as a replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has announced her intention to leave the post early next year, but might have more difficulty winning bipartisan support for secretary of defense, given his youthful protest against the war in Vietnam.)

In any event, Kerry’s departure from the Senate would create an opening that would be filled on an interim basis by a person of Gov. Deval Patrick’s choosing. Patrick has consistently maintained that he has no interest in the seat himself and intends to finish out his term despite continued speculation that he, too, might be offered a position in Washington.

Several members of the state’s all-Democratic House delegation (U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, notably and understandably not among them) have expressed an interest in replacing Kerry.

The recently deposed Scott Brown would likely have the Republican field to himself should he choose to run in a special election. (The interim appointment would almost certainly go to a Democrat.) But among those lurking should Brown decline to run are Swampscott’s Charlie Baker, Beverly’s Kerry Healey and Wakefield’s Richard Tisei.

Baker is said to be more interested in running for governor in 2014 when Patrick’s term expires. Among Democrats, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray is not considered a lock for the gubernatorial nomination, given his motor vehicle mishap and other problems.

Finally, whether she’s running for office herself or somewhere in the background, look for Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll to play a prominent role in these races. She accumulated plenty of political chits, not to mention a healthy dose of respect, during the campaign that just ended, which saw Salem vote solidly for President Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Tierney and Democratic state Senate candidate Joan Lovely.

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Speaking of Lovely, voters could have a chance to see whether she’s a leader or a follower when she departs the Salem City Council.

The anti-administration cabal on that body seems to be lining up solidly behind former Councilor Steve Pinto as an interim replacement for Lovely. But Darek Barcikowski, who was the first runner-up (finishing ahead of Pinto) in the last city election, has also expressed interest in the seat.

And recently, Lucy Corchado, a former councilor and much-respected leader within the city’s Latino community, has also said she would be willing to fill Lovely’s seat at least until the next general election.

Her experience and reputation for independent thinking make Corchado an outstanding candidate. While Lovely will not have a vote, there is no reason she should not express her preference in this matter.

In addition to Corchado’s obvious qualifications, Lovely might also cite the fact that the selection of Corchado would prevent the council from becoming, literally, an old boys’ club once again.

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Peabody voters’ wisdom in electing Ted Bettencourt mayor last year was confirmed once more with his decision to combine the post of human resources director for the city and its school system.

Having two separate departments never made sense given the similarity of their responsibilities. But for years, the school board had resisted such a move and any other efforts at consolidation, fearing a loss of political clout. Given the fact that many of the current members were solidly in Bettencourt’s camp, it was hard for them to say no this time.

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Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.