After receiving calls from various members of the Kennedy family, including the late senator’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, and sons Ted Jr. and U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Governor Deval Patrick selected long-time Kennedy ally Paul Kirk Jr. to serve as interim senator until the January 19 special election.
Kirk was sworn in for that interim post by Vice-President Joseph Biden on September 25.
Patrick had been considering several other candidates, including former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, but was evidently swayed by the Kennedy calls, telling reporters that Victoria Kennedy had contacted him “multiple times” prior to his selection of Kirk on September 24.
Kirk, 71, is a retired lobbyist and lawyer who lives on Cape Cod. He headed Senator Kennedy’s staff in the 1970s and served as Democratic National Committee chairman from 1985 to 1989. He is currently chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Kirk is also the grandnephew of Boston’s first cardinal, Cardinal William O’Connell, who was archbishop of Boston from 1907 to 1944. O’Connell performed the marriage ceremony of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, who would become the parents of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy and six other children.
Another prominent Kennedy family member has now thrown his weight behind one of the two main Democratic contenders for the Senate seat, U.S. Representative Michael Capuano of Somerville, who will square off in the December 8 primary against Attorney General Martha Coakley, and a group of lesser-known candidates.
Stephen E. Smith, who is the 51-year-old son of Sen. Kennedy’s sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, publicly endorsed Capuano, describing him as being “most like my Uncle Ted.”
Smith labeled Coakley as an overly ambitious candidate, who “set up a committee six months before my uncle died.”
Capuano and Coakley are both liberal Democrats, with Coakley recently earning the endorsement of Emily’s List, a national abortion-rights group which is bringing in thousands of dollars to her campaign.
Word has been circulating that former U.S. congressman, Joseph P. Kennedy II, head of Citizens Energy, will come out in support of Capuano because he wants one of his sons to fill Capuano’s congressional seat 9in the eighth district) if Capuano wins the election.
On the Republican side, state senator Scott Brown is expected to easily win the December 8 primary. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who has said that Massachusetts had become the “butt of jokes around the nation” because of its liberal politics, remains undecided about a possible run.
Brown’s supporters are hoping that they might get some help from the Kennedy name, if not the most famous Kennedy family.
Joseph L. Kennedy, 37, of Dedham, has recently thrown his hat into the race under the banner of the Libertarian Party.
Kennedy announced that he sees himself as “the choice for voters fed up with wealthy Democrats and Republicans fighting with each other.” Brown hopes that the literal allure of the Kennedy name might draw some voters away from the other candidates in this heavily Democratic state.