Edward M. Kennedy Jr. is giving serious consideration to running for the US Senate seat that John F. Kerry will vacate if he is confirmed as secretary of state, according to his brother, former US representative Patrick Kennedy.
The former Rhode Island congressman said that leading Democrats, including Senator Charles Schumer of New York, have asked his brother to look at launching a campaign to replace Kerry and hold the seat for Democrats.
“It’s not something he took lightly when he was approached about running,’’ Patrick Kennedy said in a phone interview Saturday night. “He got the message that he should seriously look at it.’’
The former congressman said his brother, who lives in Connecticut but owns a house at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, has reached out to family members, friends, and some prominent Democrats, including Kerry, as he ponders whether to plunge into the political life that has been so much part his family’s legacy.
The 51-year-old Edward Kennedy’s entrance into the race would be a significant development in what is expected to be a major battle in the coming months with national implications. The Democrats are holding onto a slim majority in the US Senate.
His candidacy could provide a much-needed boost for Democrats who are worried that outgoing Republican Senator Scott Brown stands a strong chance of winning a special election, much as he did in 2010 when he won the seat left vacant after the death of Edward M. Kennedy Sr. in 2009.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated Brown in last month’s election when Democrats surged to the polls. But political observers point to Brown’s continued popularity in postelection polls. They also note that the low voter turnout in special elections would favor him.
Massachusetts Democrats hope to use the same political organization they built around Warren’s candidacy, but they also understand the need to have a candidate who can stir up passion among Democratic activists and voters for that organization to be effective.
Patrick Kennedy said his brother, the president of a financial firm and a leading advocate for disability rights, had shied away from politics until he “caught the bug’’ in this year’s elections as he traveled around the country campaigning for President Obama and for candidates in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“Clearly, given our father’s legacy, he could put on a very strong campaign,’’ said Patrick Kennedy. “It’s clearly the best opportunity for the Democrats to hold the seat.’’
It’s too early to tell what impact a run by Edward Kennedy would have on the Democratic primary race or a campaign against Brown, the likely GOP nominee. He has never been tested as a candidate.
But Kennedy would immediately benefit from his family’s legacy, particularly his father’s popularity. He bears a resemblance to his father, both in physical appearance and speech.
Already three members of the state’s congressional delegation — Edward Markey of Malden, Michael Capuano of Somerville, and Stephen Lynch of South Boston — have signaled they will give serious thought to running for the seat.
Several other names have emerged since the November election when Kerry was mentioned as a possible successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton.