Senator John F. Kerry’s plan to submit his official letter of resignation Tuesday will set off a quick series of events this week that could define Massachusetts politics for years to come.
Kerry’s departure to become secretary of state, after a quarter-century in office, paves the way for Governor Deval Patrick to announce an interim senator Wednesday. Patrick has suggested he will choose a woman or a person of color to reflect the changing face of politics in Massachusetts.
Top contenders are said by political insiders to include his former chief of staff, William “Mo” Cowan, and Victoria Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy’s widow.
Politically connected Democrats do not believe that Barney Frank, former US representative, who has openly urged Patrick to appoint him, will get the interim Senate job. Patrick and his political advisers have bristled at Frank’s public pursuit of the job.
Patrick declined to say Monday if he had ruled out Frank. “I haven’t heard anything,” Frank said Monday.
The governor has closely guarded the decision-making process, meaning he could surprise the political world with a choice that breaks new ground in politics, much as he did when he was elected as a political outsider in 2006. Patrick said Monday he has not informed the person he has chosen or others believed to be in the running.
“I’m going to make an appointment of someone I’m confident will be a good steward of the interests of the people of the Commonwealth for the four or five months until the people elect their permanent representative,” he said.
The governor said he plans to schedule the special election to fill Kerry’s Senate seat on June 25, with a primary on April 30. Secretary of State William F. Galvin said he will make nomination papers available as quickly as possible this week. Candidates have four weeks to gather 10,000 certified voter signatures for their names to appear on their party’s primary ballot.
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, the former president of an ironworkers union from South Boston, is expected to announce by Thursday whether he will run for the Senate, say his political associates.
If he decides to run, he will hold a formal event that day. A Lynch run would give US Representative Edward J. Markey a tough primary challenge. Lynch has told fellow Democrats and union leaders that he intends to join the race.
Lynch’s entry would scramble the Democratic Party’s efforts to clear the field for Markey and make it impossible for the dean of the state’s congressional delegation to cruise into the general election without a tough intraparty battle.
Markey, a 36-year veteran of the House from Malden, has worked to line up backing of senior party figures, including Kerry, Kennedy, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which controls much of the party’s national fund-raising.
On Monday, Markey said he wants any candidate who enters the race to sign the groundbreaking pact that prevented political action committees from running attack ads in last year’s Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. Lynch indicated earlier this month that he would sign the so-called People’s Pledge, if he decides to run.
“If all the candidates agree, we can give the voters the kind of debate they deserve,” Markey said in a statement. “This election should be a forum for the voices of everyday voters, not attacks from Karl Rove and other outside special interests.”
Brown, fresh off his defeat last fall, will be under mounting pressure from Republicans to announce whether he will plunge into his third fiercely fought race for a Senate seat or allow another Republican to begin building a campaign.
Brown has yet to make up his mind, but will need to decide before long so he can collect the 10,000 signatures required in the next month. Without him in the race, the GOP has few other prominent options for a serious challenge for Kerry’s seat.
Adding to the political drama, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has been ailing and absent from many public appearances, will give his State of the City address Tuesday evening. The political world will be on edge as to whether Menino, who is up for reelection in November, will hint whether he plans to end his 20-year tenure as mayor or seek a record sixth term. If Menino does not run, it will set off yet another political rush.
“It’s going to be a momentous week,’’ Galvin said. “There are big changes coming.”
With the notable exception of Brown’s upset victory in the 2010 Senate race, Massachusetts has rarely seen turnover in its representation in Washington. For decades, Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy held fast to the state’s Senate seats, while the House delegation has been only sporadically challenged.
Now, Massachusetts will have two new figures representing it in the Senate. Warren, the state’s first female senator, just weeks into her tenure, will become Massachusetts’ senior senator Friday, when Kerry’s departure becomes official. The interim senator will probably join her next week, completing the new duo in Washington.