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Paul Kirk, Ex-Kennedy Aide, Seen as Likely Interim Senator from Massachusetts

Massachusetts lawmakers have passed a law, allowing Governor Deval Patrick to name an interim Senator until a special election can take place. Gov. Patrick is expected to name that replacement Thursday.

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By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Massachusetts legislature on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would allow Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) to appoint an interim U.S. senator, and he is leaning heavily toward naming Paul Kirk, a longtime aide to the late senator Edward M. Kennedy, to the position, according to a source familiar with the machinations.

Patrick, who is in the Berkshires, in western Massachusetts, recovering from hip surgery, has indicated that he would sign such a bill but would still need to declare an emergency to appoint an interim senator immediately. The appointee would hold the seat until a successor to Kennedy is chosen in a Jan. 19 special election.

The governor has said nothing publicly about who might fill the vacancy, but several sources said an announcement could come as soon as Thursday.

Massachusetts lawmakers had changed the law governing replacement senators in 2004, taking away the governor's authority to make an appointment in order to prevent Mitt Romney (R) from naming a Republican to fill the seat if Sen. John F. Kerry (D) were elected president.

Kirk has emerged as the favorite over the past few days in large part because of his close relationship with the Kennedy family and a belief that his selection would be largely without controversy.

Kennedy's widow, Vicki, and his two sons -- Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) and businessman Edward Kennedy Jr. -- made clear to Patrick that Kirk is their choice, according to the Boston Globe.

Kirk is regarded as a safe pick by many Democrats who are concerned that selecting former governor and 1988 presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis, the other person regularly mentioned as a potential caretaker, might provide fodder for Patrick's critics.

Kirk spent much of the 1970s as a special assistant to Kennedy in his Senate office, then served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the late 1980s. He is currently the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's board of directors.

If selected, Kirk would be the fifth appointed Democrat to join the Senate this year, following Sens. Roland W. Burris (Ill.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.). Republican George LeMieux (Fla.) was also appointed this year and was sworn in this month.

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