Kennedy widow out of replacement race

Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Ted Kennedy, reaffirmed yesterday that she has no interest in replacing her husband in the Senate.  Paul Kane reports that Mrs. Kennedy will not pursue either an appointment as a temporary replacement, nor run in the special election.  Gov. Deval Patrick has set the election date for January 19th and the primaries for December 8th, but he wants the legislature to let him pick a chairwarmer now:

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) has set Jan. 19 as the date for a special election to fill the final three years of Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate term. Patrick also pleaded Monday for the state legislature to allow him to appoint a replacement for Kennedy who would serve until that election.

With speculation swirling around the Kennedy family’s interest in keeping the seat in the family’s hands, Patrick said that the senator’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, has told him she is not interested in the interim appointment.

A close family friend, who requested anonymity to speak freely about internal Kennedy issues, reaffirmed that position Monday afternoon, adding that nor will Vicki Kennedy run in the special election.

“She’s not interested, and that’s not going to change,” the friend said.

Orrin Hatch will be so disappointed.  As for the royalists, that leaves only Joe Kennedy, Ted’s nephew, who last held public office in 1999.  He has spent the last ten years running an energy concern aimed at low-income consumers, whose chief benefactor was none other than Hugo Chavez.  Normally that would present too much political baggage even for Massachusetts, but as the Last Great Kennedy Hope, Bay State voters would probably overlook it.

However, other Democrats appear ready to challenge the notion of a Kennedy seat in the Senate.  Kane reports that two will almost certainly run, even if Joe jumps into the race.  Congressmen Mike Capuano and Edward Markey will want to shoot for an easy promotion, especially since in a special election, they don’t have to forgo their current House seats to do so.  Markey is best known as the other author of the cap-and-trade bill (Henry Waxman being listed first), and he’s got $3 million banked for the effort.  Marty Meehan, a former Congressman, may also get back into politics with a run at the Senate.

If Vicki Kennedy doesn’t want the appointment, will the legislature rush to change the law to allow Patrick to pick a placeholder for a few months?  Without the emotional tie to Ted Kennedy, it seems less interesting, and potentially a problem for other politicians in the state who may want to move into Markey’s or Capuano’s seat in the House if they win.  If Patrick picks someone who then decides to try to keep the seat in the special election, that will make it a little harder for challengers of either party, unless Patrick picks a complete non-entity — which will then call the entire effort into question.