Political Animal


December 17, 2012 3:18 PM Who Will Succeed John Kerry in the Senate?

By Ryan Cooper

The buzz is that John Kerry will be nominated as Secretary of State, so the next question is who will take his seat in the Senate. First there would have to be a placeholder before an interim election this spring, and The Hill is speculating that Mike Dukakis will fill in:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, may be headed back to the political spotlight as he’s considered a likely interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Dukakis, who is 79, has remained politically active. He campaigned for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this fall and teaches at Northeastern University.

This seems like a reasonable choice to sit in just for a few months, though I hope he doesn’t sit for the full election. Scott Brown will naturally be in the running on the Republican side, and Dukakis is frankly a bit old to be starting a senate term. But as a placeholder, he’d be fine.

It’s again strange that the president is pulling so many Democratic senators out of the chamber. He did it before with Ken Salazar, and the Dems barely held on to that seat. Brown has a pretty good chance of winning the election, which would make Obama’s negotiating position that much weaker, not to mention the fate of things like filibuster reform. In any case, we’ll keep you posted.


Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • John on December 17, 2012 4:12 PM:

    Obama has so far appointed two sitting senators to the cabinet - one of whom, Clinton, was replaced with no difficulty at all. Kerry would make three. Is that really so many?

  • c u n d gulag on December 17, 2012 4:14 PM:

    Great temporary choice!

    And I think the shine is off of Scottie.

    He was a total jerk in this election, and he undid any good will with Democrats may have had. And it sure looked like true Independents and Moderates weren't too pleased with him, either.

    Plus, Scottie beat Martha Coakley, a very capable person, but one who ran a really, really, horrible campaign. He worked to win that election - she took the Mitt Romney approach, and felt that she was entitled to the late Teddy Kennedy's seat.

  • Peter C on December 17, 2012 4:20 PM:

    I might wish we were considering other prominent Democrats for Secretary of State who weren't in the Senate. We could use this opportunity to appoint a promising Undersecretary and give them exposure. That would create someone with more viable candidate credentials in the future.

    We need to do a better job at building our stable of candidates for the future. Accomplishing that with John Kerry's Senate replacement is not the only option.

  • DaveMB on December 17, 2012 4:20 PM:

    I expect Ryan is also thinking of the additional Senate vacancies caused by himself and Biden.

  • Zorro on December 17, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Just please don't let it be Martha Coakley. She ran perhaps the worst possible campaign against Scott Brown, and putting her up to run against him again is asking to lose the seat.


  • T2 on December 17, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Kerry should stay in the Senate. Having 55 votes there will be more important than whomever is SecState. seriously. Obama can find somebody else to fly around meeting with guys in robes, getting no serious diplomatic breakthroughs. Frankly, I'm trying to think of one major diplomatic accomplishment Hillary's made.

  • azportsider on December 17, 2012 4:34 PM:

    Am I missing something here? Why wouldn't Bill Richardson make a good Secretary of State? The guy's a sturdy Dem, former Ambassador to the UN, former state Governor and US Representative. His Hispanic heritage doesn't hurt his case either.

  • Jim on December 17, 2012 4:34 PM:

    Obama has so far appointed two sitting senators to the cabinet - one of whom, Clinton, was replaced with no difficulty at all. Kerry would make three. Is that really so many?
    A lot of people criticized Obama for taking Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebellius out of their respective state's politics, and as a Coloradan, let me say that one of the reasons I like Obama so much is he got that loathsome Liebercrat Ken Salazar out of one of my Senate seats. I hate that hypocritical, self=serving, opportunistic SOB with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.

    From what I've read, MA Dems are pretty confident about a match up between Brown and Capuano (I think?)

  • KB on December 17, 2012 4:38 PM:

    Wouldn't the fate of filibuster reform have been decided way before a special election to replace Kerry? I thought that was happening under a rules vote very early in the Senate session... am I wrong??

  • Josef K on December 17, 2012 4:45 PM:

    I confess I'm also wondering what the hell the Administration is thinking, especially based on recent history. Perhaps they're more serious about holding this particular Senate seat now. It would certainly be nice if they'd stop playing so nice, even if it is only because President Obama is now a lame duck.

  • James E. Powell on December 17, 2012 4:45 PM:

    Although I am not sanguine about any Democrat against Scott Brown, that is likely because I don't know Massachusetts politics. His election was a burn and the scar is still there.

    That said, it would good to get some new Democratic people in prominent positions.

  • Anonymous on December 17, 2012 5:13 PM:

    Rep. Ed Markey was floated as a candidate for the Dems. How would he fare statewide in MA?

  • Mimikatz on December 17, 2012 5:14 PM:

    I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about Kerry until it was pointed out that he is a real climate hawk and not likely to be intimidated into silence like some other cabinet appointees. That is something we sorely need. There are capable people in MA who can run. Agree that the bloom is off of Brown. Three races in three years is a lot of exposure and tin cupping.

  • sjw on December 17, 2012 5:19 PM:

    Several observations:
    It wasn't only Coakley's fault: Tim Kaine was lame as chair of the DNC and a far cry from the great DNC chair he replaced (Howard Dean).
    What about Barney Frank?
    I love the idea of Richardson as Sec. of State, but that appointment would be quite the slap at Kerry, who deserves better.

  • sillygirl on December 17, 2012 6:00 PM:

    I don't have a probelm with him pulling senators from the chamber. At least they have experience.

  • efgoldman on December 17, 2012 7:49 PM:

    @ SJW What about Barney Frank?
    Barney is too old, really.
    @ Anonymous Rep. Ed Markey was floated as a candidate for the Dems. How would he fare statewide in MA?
    Congresspersons haven't necessarily done well in MA statewide elections. Kerry was an exception.
    @ Zorro Just please don't let it be Martha Coakley.
    They'd never nominate her again, even if she tries for it.
    @ c u n d gulag And I think the shine is off of Scottie.
    Probably, but there's really no other GOBP candidate who can possibly win a statewide election. Of course, that was said of CosmoBoy also too.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on December 17, 2012 7:51 PM:

    Stupid. Just fucking stupid. But what do you expect with Democrats. They don't know how to win. And they can't learn how to win or use power.

  • LFW on December 17, 2012 9:00 PM:

    I agree with anyone who thinks it's a terrible idea. I live in Massachusetts and I don't want to have to go through another difficult election. Elizabeth Warren had a hard fight against Scott Brown and I think he could win again. Why on earth would Obama take the chance!! And typically Obama falls into the Republican trap. They'd love him to appoint Kerry so they can pick up that seat...AGAIN! It's too important a time in the history of our country to lose another senate seat if we don't have to.

  • beejeez on December 18, 2012 9:22 AM:

    No, no, no, no, no. Nothing against Dukakis, but the Kerry-to-State move is an opportunity to give a promising young Dem a shot at landing a Senate seat he or she can be safely hold for another 30 years. Isn't there a Kennedy ready yet?