- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sen. John Kerry is on track to become the next secretary of state. Already, Massachusetts Democrats are scrambling for a candidate to fill the Senate vacancy he would leave behind. Conventional wisdom holds that, in a deep blue state, the eventual Democratic nominee is a shoo-in to win a special election. Not so fast.

An open seat would give defeated Republican Sen. Scott Brown another chance to return to Capitol Hill. In November, he lost to Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren in one of the nation’s highest-profile Senate races. Mrs. Warren, a Harvard law professor, benefited from the state’s powerful Democratic machine. She rode President Obama’s electoral coattails, dashing Mr. Brown’s hopes at winning re-election.

The Massachusetts Republican stunned the political establishment in 2010. Mr. Brown rose to national prominence after defeating Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election triggered by the death of long-time liberal Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Portraying himself as a moderate GOP populist, Mr. Brown managed to achieve a near-impossible feat: He broke the Democratic Party’s stranglehold on the Bay State. For this he won national notoriety, which also painted a huge target on his back.

Political lightning could strike twice. Should Mr. Brown decide to seek the GOP nomination (and indications are he’s interested), he would likely run unopposed. The reason is simple: Mr. Brown is still widely popular and well known. Even many Warren supporters told exit pollsters they had a favorable impression of the GOP moderate. Mr. Brown’s brand of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism, along with his folksy campaigning style, has endeared him to many Massachusetts voters. His greatest weapon, however, could be his opposition.


As in 2010, he may face a weak challenger. Some of the big names being floated as possible Democratic candidates are bland Capitol Hill machine politicians, including Rep. Michael Capuano and Rep. Edward Markey. Another possibility is a Brown-Coakley rematch, which would make good political theater. Many Democrats privately concede the result would likely be another victory by Mr. Brown.

Hence, many Massachusetts liberals are looking for another Kennedy to come to the rescue. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s son, Edward M. Kennedy Jr., is being considered. Despite owning a home in Massachusetts, Mr. Kennedy also has a residence in Connecticut, which would open him to carpetbagging charges — a kiss of death in the state’s parochial politics.

The wild card is Gov. Deval Patrick. After Mr. Kerry, he is Massachusetts’ most powerful Democrat, and his term expires in 2014. Mr. Patrick has publicly said he will not run again for governor. He does, however, harbor presidential ambitions, especially for 2016. Mr. Patrick may seek to emulate the path of his good friend, Mr. Obama, by first winning election to the Senate. A Patrick candidacy would present Mr. Brown with serious challenges. Although the governor is vulnerable on many issues, including his support for in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants and widespread government corruption, he has the backing of the state’s massive Democratic apparatus. This alone would make him a formidable foe.

Once Mr. Kerry is confirmed, a special election needs to be called within 160 days. The most likely scenario would see voters go to the polls by early June. Mr. Brown may have lost his recent battle with Massachusetts’ Democratic Goliath, but the GOP’s David may still win the war.

The Washington Times