Confidant: Kennedys Want Ex-DNC Chairman in Senate
September 23, 2009 - 10:40 AMThe sons of the late Edward M. Kennedy have urged the governor to pick Paul G. Kirk Jr., the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to temporarily replace their father in the U.S. Senate.
A family confidant said Wednesday both Edward Kennedy Jr. and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., had endorsed Kirk in separate phone calls.
A top aide to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick confirmed the contacts but added, "No decision has been made yet." A spokeswoman in Patrick Kennedy's congressional office declined to comment.
Massachusetts lawmakers are expected Wednesday to give final approval to a change in the Senate succession law so the governor can temporarily fill Senate vacancies. The interim senator would serve until the seat is filled permanently through a special election on Jan. 19.
Patrick could announce his pick as early as Thursday.
The 71-year-old Kirk is a Boston attorney and close friend of the senator's. He and his wife, Gail, live on Cape Cod, and he was among the few people allowed to regularly visit Kennedy at his Hyannis Port home before he died there of brain cancer on Aug. 25.
Kirk also knows the senator's staff intimately and would likely be assured of their loyalty given his relationship with Kennedy.
As a senior statesmen who has never served in political office, he would pose no threat to any of the candidates competing in the special election. The Democratic field includes Attorney General Martha Coakley, vying to be the state's first female senator, and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, the lone member of the state's congressional delegation in the race.
The family confidant, who like the Patrick aide demanded anonymity to speak about private conversations, refused to reveal whether the senator's widow, Vicki, had also endorsed Kirk. Vicki Kennedy has granted no interviews since her husband's death, but Patrick revealed recently that she had told him she did not want to be considered for the interim appointment.
Kirk graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and served on Kennedy's staff between 1969 and 1977. He ran the Democratic National Committee in the run-up to former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis' unsuccessful run for president in 1988.
Kirk also co-founded the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has sponsored every presidential and vice presidential debate involving major candidates since 1988.
He now serves as chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. He was in the national spotlight last month when he hosted a memorial service the evening before Kennedy's funeral.
Kirk also is exceptionally close to Caroline Kennedy, who serves as president of the library foundation honoring her late father. He stood on the stage with her and the late senator each year as they dispensed the library's annual "Profiles in Courage" awards.
Asked recently whether he would be interested in an interim appointment, Kirk told The Associated Press in an e-mail, "It would be much too presumptuous of me to even consider. Hope you will understand."
Dukakis is among those who is said to be under consideration. He, too, has declined to comment on the question.
Associated Press Writer Jay Lindsay contributed to this report.
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