Election Preview: Massachusetts Senate by-election 2010

A special election to fill the US Senate seat of late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, who died in summer 2009, will be held in Massachusetts on January 19. Ted Kennedy, brother of former President Joseph F. Kennedy and former Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was first elected in a special election in 1962 to fill a seat which his brother, President Kennedy, had held between 1953 and 1960. He was easily re-elected in 1964 through 2006.

Shortly before his death, he urged Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to change the law for filling vacancies to allow for interim appointments before a special election can be held. The law had been changed in 2004 by Democrats who feared that Republican Governor Mitt Romney would appoint a Republican to John Kerry’s seat if he had been elected President in 2004. The winner will be up for re-election in 2012.

Massachusetts, being the most Catholic state in the country coupled with a strong organized labour base and socially liberal streak, is one of the most Democratic states in the nation. It gave Obama 62% of the vote, and it was the only state in which John Kerry (who represents the state in the Senate) broke 60% in 2004. Democrats hold all state-wide offices (with the exception of Treasurer, which is held by a former Democrat, now Independent) and all 10 seats in the US House. In the State House, there are 144 Democrats to only 16 Republicans. In the State Senate, there are 35 Democrats to 5 Republicans.

Governor Patrick, who was successful in passing the new succession law, appointed Paul G. Kirk to fill the Senate seat before a special election is held and its winner sworn in. Kirk made it clear he was only a seat-warmer and would not run in the special election.

Martha Coakley, Massachusetts’ Attorney General won the December 8 Democratic primary with 47% against 28% for Representative Mike Capuano. Coakley, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 and offered only lukewarm support to Obama in November, is a rival within the state Democratic Party of Governor Patrick (who supported Obama in 2008). Coakley supports Obama’s healthcare plan and also stands with the party on social issues.

Republican State Senator Scott Brown easily won the Republican primary. Scott Brown is hard to pin-down, but he is certainly what is called an ‘economic conservative’ in the US and more wishy-washy on social issues. He opposes Obama’s healthcare plan and is known to be anti-tax, but he has not come out as fully pro-life though his website does say he ‘wishes the reduce the number of abortions in America’. He also states that marriage is between a man and a woman, but he’s made his real stance on gay marriage wishy-washy as well. In a state where Republicans tend to be quite liberal, he is probably to the right of most Massachusetts Republicans (and Democrats, obviously). However, Professor Boris Schor of the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies contends that Brown is a liberal Republican.

There’s a third candidate, an Independent, with an original name. Joseph Kennedy, no relation to the Kennedy either by blood or political views. Kennedy is a libertarian, and some think he could get a small share of the vote from voters thinking they’re voting for a real Kennedy.

Massachusetts in a safe Democratic state, but a general growing discontent with Obama coupled with a series of verbal gaffes by an uncharismatic and rather poor candidate like Martha Coakley has changed this race into a very close race. A few polls have had Brown ahead, and all serious pollsters rate the race as a tossup. Rasmussen had Coakley ahead 49-47, and PPP has Brown ahead 48-47. The race remains very close and both candidates have a realistic chance to win. A Republican victory in such a Democratic state would probably send a shockwave signal to Democrats and Obama of the danger they’re in, especially in regards to the November 2010 mid-terms. However, it remains a special election where turnout patterns are different than those usually seen in November.

Democrats hope that a visit by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama can prevent Coakley’s vessel from sinking from the weight of her awful campaign. Democrats.

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Posted on January 16, 2010, in By-elections, Massachusetts, U.S.A.. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. In many ways, it is already a win for the Republicans in that the democrats have had to spend a lot of dollars in massachusetts and Clinton and Obama have been dragged into the race.

    I think you’re a little behind on the calls though. Rothenburg and Cook have both moved it to leans GOP.

    It will be an exciting result either way. The dems probably have a better machine to get votes out, but the massive imbalance in enthusiasm probably helps level that pitch somewhat.

  1. Pingback: Massachusetts by-election 2010 « World Elections

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