Patrick should appoint senior figure as caretaker of Kerry’s seat


The nomination of John Kerry as secretary of state creates obvious complications in Massachusetts, which will now see its third high-profile Senate contest in less than four years. Upon Kerry’s confirmation, which is all but assured, Governor Patrick must appoint a successor and set a special election date between 145 days and 160 days after the seat becomes vacant. Democratic lawmakers should resist the temptation to make further adjustments to the Commonwealth’s Senate-succession rules, as they did for partisan purposes in 2004 and 2009. (The election of a Republican successor was, among other things, a form of comeuppance for those high-handed changes.)

Meanwhile, Patrick should follow the precedent he set after Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009 and appoint a caretaker senator who vows not to run in the special election. A number of senior political figures in Massachusetts have relevant experience in Washington and could serve knowledgeably for a few months. Patrick shouldn’t use the appointment to give a jump-start to any one candidate’s political future; all potential candidates for the permanent post deserve an equal shot, and voters deserve the chance to fill an open seat.

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