Under current law, a special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy would occur in late January.
Meaning that unless the state legislature changes the law — passed in 2004 to ensure that then-governor Mitt Romney would not select the person to fill the seat of Pres. John Kerry (stop laughing) — the Senate will have no more than 59 Democratic senators for the remainder of the year. A letter from Kennedy had urged the law be changed, but a lot of Massachusetts Democrats have wanted to be a senator; the last open-seat race was won by Kerry in 1984. There is likely to be strong opposition to anyone having the seat and even short-lived incumbency handed to them by Gov. Deval Patrick.
For those wondering about the circumstances if ill health forces Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.) to step down, the Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, would select his successor.