Coalition Launches Petition Drive to Quickly Replace Kennedy

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 28, 2009; 8:15 PM

A coalition of liberal groups is urging Massachusetts political leaders to honor one of the last wishes of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy by changing state law to allow for the appointment of a temporary successor.

Momentum has been building since Kennedy's death for a change in the law, which in current form would require the Senate seat to remain vacant for five months until a special election is held. Kennedy himself wrote state leaders earlier this month requesting that the law be changed so his state would have full representation during the ongoing debate over reforming health care.

Now MassVOTE, which calls itself "a non-partisan voting rights organization," has launched a Web site,, asking readers to sign "our petition to the Massachusetts Legislature to honor Ted Kennedy's legacy by taking steps to ensure an immediate, temporary appointment who won't run in the election to fill Massachusetts's second Senate seat. Massachusetts needs two voting members in the Senate, and our elected officials need to do what they can to keep our commonwealth represented."

Liberal-leaning groups supporting the effort include the state branches of the Service Employees International Union and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) has endorsed the idea of changing the law, and leaders in the state legislature are reportedly warming to the idea as well. But a spokeswoman for the office of the state Senate president said there would be no movement or announcements on the issue Friday, out of deference to the Kennedy family.

Republicans have accused Democrats of hypocrisy for supporting a change in the state law, given that it was rewritten in 2004, when Democrats feared Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's ability to appoint a successor to Sen. John F. Kerry (D), who was running for president.

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