Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Senate succession irony

also in Massachusetts:
When John F. Kennedy left the Senate after being elected president in 1960, Gov. Foster Furcolo appointed a college roommate of JFK's, Ben Smith, as a "seat warmer" for Teddy, who was born on the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth and would not be old enough to serve in the Senate until 1962. That year Ted Kennedy ran in a special election for the final two years of his elder brother's term.

In 2004, Massachusetts Democrats anticipated another Senate vacancy, when one of their own--a haughty, French-looking one, who by the way served in Vietnam--received a presidential nomination. The governor at the time, Mitt Romney, was a Republican, and Democrats, including Sen. Kennedy, wanted to keep the seat in Democratic hands. So, as the New York Times reported at the time:
The State Senate voted, almost entirely on party lines, to change the nearly century-old electoral rules and call for a special election to a Senate seat that would take place from 145 to 160 days after an incumbent senator decides to step down. In Mr. Kerry's case, should he win the presidency, that would mean an election would be held for his seat in March or April 2005, instead of in November 2006 under the current system. Mr. Kerry's term actually expires in 2008.
The Senate also voted that the governor could not make an interim appointment. . . .
''That's not an election--that's a sweetheart deal,'' Mr. Romney protested at a news conference on Wednesday. He said he would veto the bill if, as expected, it passes in the House next week, but legislators are likely to overturn any veto. ''You're creating a special deal for a friend,'' he said, adding, ''It's robbing the citizens of the right to a free election.'' . . .
There is also the irony that Senator Kennedy, who urged state legislators to approve the special election bill, was himself once an indirect beneficiary of the state's appointment system.
The Legislature did override Romney's veto, as the Globe reported. The result is that although Kerry still holds his seat, the current governor, Deval Patrick, will be unable to fill Kennedy's should it become vacant anytime in the next 2½ years.

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