In today’s Wall Street Journal, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts is mentioned as a possible contender to be the next secretary of state or the next secretary of defense.
If Kerry were to accept the appointment, Massachusetts state law requires the appointment of an interim senator by the governor, Deval Patrick, and a special U.S. Senate election must be held 145 to 160 days after a vacancy occurs. If Kerry were to depart his seat in January, that would put the special election in May or June.
Obviously, when you hear “special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts,” the first name that comes to mind is incumbent Republican senator Scott Brown, who just lost his bid for reelection to Elizabeth Warren. There is a further wrinkle that the Journal mentions: Patrick is being mentioned as a possible appointee in Obama’s second term, and some in Massachusetts believe Brown is interested in running for governor someday. Brown insists he’s not focusing on either position until there is a certain vacancy.
If Deval Patrick were to depart Boston for a job in the Obama administration, his office would remain technically vacant for the remainder of his term (ending in January 2015) and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray would be “Acting Governor” during that time.