By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
Edward M. Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, has weighed in on who should replace her late husband in the US Senate, telling the governor that she prefers that he tap former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr., according to a Kennedy family associate.
Vicki Kennedy had previously told Governor Deval Patrick that she was not interested in the seat, and her voice adds further pressure to fill the interim appointment with the long-time Kennedy friend and former staffer, who is so trusted and respected he was chosen as master of ceremonies at Kennedy's memorial service the night before his funeral
The Globe reported this morning that Kennedy’s two sons, US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island and businessman Edward M. Kennedy Jr., have also told Governor Patrick that Kirk is their first choice.
Potential candidates for the appointment have started filling out vetting forms that include financial disclosures, according to a person familiar with the process. Former Governor Michael Dukakis is among those filling out the form, the person said.
Massachusetts lawmakers this afternoon are expected to give final approval to legislation that would change Massachusetts election law and allow the governor to appoint an interim US senator.
The interim senator appointed by Patrick would serve until voters elect a new senator in a Jan. 19 special election. That senator would serve the remaining three years of Kennedy’s term.
Republicans had been contemplating a last-ditch legal challenge in an effort to derail the legislation, but that has not gathered steam.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s worth it to do right now,” Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who had been consulting with attorneys about filing a lawsuit, said today in an interview.
Kirk, a 71-year-old attorney who lives on Cape Cod, is seen as a top choice because of his ties to the Kennedy family and his deep knowledge of Washington politics. He worked as a special assistant to Senator Kennedy from 1969 to 1977, and is currently the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Last month, he served as master of ceremonies at a widely watched memorial service the night before Senator Kennedy’s funeral.
Kirk is also familiar with many on Kennedy’s former staff, and could help smooth the transition. Kennedy’s office is in the process of being shut down, and his former staff will be taken off the payroll in about four weeks. They have not been able to do any work aside from closing the office, and getting a new senator in place could allow them to start operating again.
Among the other names frequently mentioned by observers are Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree, and former lieutenant governor Evelyn Murphy.
It is Dukakis’s name that has received the most widespread attention so far, with some Democrats privately pushing for his appointment, others anxious over how he might be received by the general public, and Republicans nearly gleeful as they contemplate his political resurrection.
Patrick has been weighing the appointment options with a close circle of advisers in recent days, asking them to cast a wide net that goes beyond the names that have been floated publicly, according to a person with knowledge of the process who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. It has been an “extensive vetting process,’’ but the governor is still mulling over candidates, the person said.
The governor is hoping to be able to appoint someone tomorrow or Friday, the person said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.