AN important part of Senator Edward Kennedy’s preeminence in the Senate was his outstanding staff. For eight years, Paul Kirk Jr., the 71-year-old attorney chosen by Governor Patrick yesterday to be the state’s interim US senator, was part of the deep bench Kennedy had behind him as he fought his signature battles for health care, education, and better working conditions.
While this page would have preferred to see former governor Michael Dukakis serve until voters choose a full-time successor to Kennedy on Jan. 19, Kirk will represent the state capably. A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Kirk co-founded the Commission on Presidential Debates and has stayed close to the Kennedy family as chairman of the JFK Library Foundation. Wise in the ways of Washington, Kirk will also bring to Senate deliberations an understanding of Kennedy’s values and priorities. He will leave behind, as he announced yesterday, his somewhat problematic positions on the boards of corporations with public business.
The Legislature and the governor have acted sensibly, and with commendable dispatch, in making sure that Kennedy’s death did not leave the state with just one vote in the Senate as it takes on momentous issues like health care reform and climate change.