Prominent Democrats want Kennedy's widow to run for his Senate seat

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) was the last of an American political dynasty, rising to prominence alongside his brothers John and Robert. He served more than four decades in the Senate and led a life rife with triumph and tragedy. Vincent Bzdek, who is author of 'The Kennedy Legacy,' narrates the slideshow.
By Mary Ann Akers and Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nearly one year after Edward M. Kennedy's death, prominent Democrats in Washington and Massachusetts are promoting his widow as the party's best shot at winning back the Senate seat he held for nearly five decades.

Though she has seemed to bat down the idea of challenging Sen. Scott Brown (R) in 2012, Victoria Reggie Kennedy has been in some ways acting the part of a candidate. She has raised her public profile by campaigning for other politicians and appearing at events across the country.

The prospect of her candidacy is fast becoming a source of family tension, according to several Kennedy intimates. Some relatives fear that a campaign against Brown -- a popular figure even in liberal Massachusetts -- would distract Kennedy from promoting her late husband's legacy, they said.

(Photos: The life and career of Ted Kennedy)

Vicki Kennedy, a lawyer from a powerful political family in Louisiana who married into the Kennedy dynasty in 1992, declined to be interviewed for this article. She passed up the chance to run for the seat last year, and several confidants said she has told them that she has no plans to run this time.

But some party leaders have been quietly promoting her as their preferred candidate. They believe her stature and the goodwill she earned after her husband's death on Aug. 25 put her in a uniquely strong position.

Phil Johnston, a former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said he and many others have urged her to run, and Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) said she would be "a superb candidate, no question."

"Does she have it? Yeah, she's got it in spades," said Delahunt, a close friend of Kennedy's. "Anyone would tout her if you're trying to recruit candidates."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is among those quietly promoting her candidacy, according to several Democratic sources in Massachusetts. Schumer declined to comment.

In an interview, however, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), the youngest of Edward Kennedy's three children, said he wished his stepmother would focus her energy exclusively on raising money to build the endowment of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire future leaders.

"As a politician, it's not as if I don't get frustrated by seeing the opportunities missed in the last year for amazing events with this president, this speaker and others who have demonstrated their willingness time and again to honor Dad's legacy," said Kennedy, who battles drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness and has long had a troubled relationship with this stepmother. "You know the phrase, 'You make hay while the sun shines?' This was the year to do it."

His brother, Edward Kennedy Jr., has also expressed concern that a campaign would distract her from the institute, people familiar with his thinking said. The sources would discuss the sensitive family matter only on condition of anonymity.

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