With UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrawing her name for consideration as Hillary Clinton’s successor as Secretary of State, the odds that our own US Senator, John Kerry, will be named to that post by the President have increased substantially. Republican Senators quoted in this Globe article and elsewhere seem giddy at the prospect of confirming Kerry to that post. Whether they are motivated by affection for Kerry or lust after his vacant Senate seat is open to question.
John Kerry would make an outstanding Secretary of State. He’s the son of a career diplomat; a combat veteran; and someone who understands how the world works: he has traits and interests that in some ways were a detriment while running for office, be it as a Senator for re-election in Massachusetts or as the Democratic nominee for President in 2004, that would be positives to the nation’s top diplomat. But the Kerry to Secretary of State move, while appearing likely, is not a done deal. The same Globe article quotes anonymous sources at the State Department as doubting whether Kerry will be the nominee. More likely, they suggest, it will be current National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. That would open his position, which does not need Senate confirmation, for Susan Rice. The upside of this scenario for the President is that he rewards Rice for her selflessness in withdrawing her name and saving him either a tough confirmation fight if he chose her or the appearance he was cowering before Republican Senatorial bullies had he nominated someone else. Plus, not nominating Kerry would keep the Senate seat he safely holds in the Democratic column at least until the 2014 state election when that seat will be on the ballot anyway.
Should the President nominate Kerry as Secretary of State, he would undoubtedly be swiftly confirmed and would resign his Senate seat. What then? Upon receipt of Kerry’s letter of resignation, Governor Deval Patrick would be required by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 54, section 140, to set the date for a special election to fill the seat not less than 145 days nor more than 160 days from the date of the vacancy.
Let’s say the vacancy was to occur on February 1, 2013. The soonest the election could occur would be Tuesday, June 25, 2013 and the latest it could take place would be Tuesday, July 9, 2013. The date for the special election primary automatically falls six weeks before the date of the election. That means that if the election were set for June 25, the primary would be held on Tuesday, May 14; if the election were to be held on July 9, the primary would fall on May 28.
This is all speculation, but it’s intended to give some tangible dates as those of you who are politically active (isn’t everyone?) consider how you’ll be spending your late winter and spring.