Early polls suggested Brown, who remains personally popular in deep-blue Massachusetts despite his party affiliation, would have started with a lead on either Rep. Edward J. Markey (D) or Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D). One poll even put him ahead of Markey, the Democratic favorite, by 22 points.
“I respect Scott Brown’s decision and know that he did what he thought was best for him and his family,” Markey said in a statement. Lynch said it was “perfectly understandable” that Brown “wouldn’t want to undertake another campaign.”
Republicans are now without a top candidate for the seat held by Kerry, who earlier this week was confirmed by the Senate to be the next secretary of state.
With Brown out of the picture, potential GOP candidates include former state senator Richard Tisei, former governor William Weld, former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, and businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, whom national Republicans have been recruiting.
Tisei could be an attractive option for the Republican Party. He is openly gay and pro-abortion rights and proved to be a strong fundraiser last year. He narrowly lost to Rep. John F. Tierney (D) in 2012.
Weld, who recently returned to Boston from New York, told the Boston Globe in December that he did not think he would run for the seat, but he did not rule it out, either. He ran for the Senate before, losing a competitive race with Kerry in 1996. He also ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York in 2006.
Healey served as lieutenant governor under Mitt Romney for one term but lost badly when she attempted to succeed Romney for the state’s top job in 2006.
Gomez, 47, is the least known of the four but appears to be the most eager, saying this week that he would even consider challenging Brown in the primary.
The special primary will be April 30; the special general election will be June 25. The winner of the election will have to campaign for reelection in 2014.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) has appointed his former chief of staff, Mo Cowan, as interim replacement for Kerry until the special election produces a winner.
Brown, who was elected in 2010, lost his seat in November to Elizabeth Warren (D). It’s worth keeping an eye on his political future, even though he is not running for Senate. The 2014 governor’s race will be an open contest that may interest Brown.