- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

A former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was named Thursday to take the late Massachusetts lawmaker’s Senate seat.

Paul G. Kirk Jr., a Democrat, was named interim successor by Gov. Deval Patrick and will fill the seat until voters choose a senator in a special election scheduled for Jan. 19.

Mr. Kirk, 71, served on Mr. Kennedy’s staff from 1969 and 1977 and is a former Democratic National Committee chairman. He graduated from Harvard Law School and is now chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

“I accept this with humility,” Mr. Kirk said at news conference in Boston, flanked by Mr. Patrick and Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat. “Mr. Kennedy often said representing the commonwealth of Massachusetts is the highest honor. It is my highest honor as well. I will give a voice and a vote to his causes.”

He is expected to be sworn in Friday.

Mr. Kirk and wife Gail are friends of the Kennedy family and live on Cape Cod. He thanked Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, and his sons, Patrick and Edward Jr., for their support.

The appointment was made one day after the state Legislature gave final approved to a bill that allowed Mr. Patick, a Democrat, to name an interim successor to Mr. Kennedy.

However, the legislation passed without a two-thirds majority, so the governor had to ask the secretary of state to make the legislation an emergency bill so it could take effect immediately. Under the state constitution, most new bills go into effect after 90 days.

The appointment will give Democrats the key 60th vote in the Senate as President Obama tries to pass legislation on reforming health-care insurance.

Reforming health care was Mr. Kennedy’s signature political issue. Before his death, Mr. Kennedy asked Mr. Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement.

Mr. Patrick said the appointment was important because the state needs full representation in Congress on such issues as unemployment and climate change, not just health care reform.

“These issues are too important to be one vote short,” he said.

He also thanked the Legislature for its efforts and assured residents they will vote in January.

Mr. Kirk said he will not run in the January election. The Democratic primary field includes state Attorney General Martha Coakley and U.S. Rep. Michael E. Capuano.

Mr. Kirk is a registered lobbyist, so he would be banned from lobbying for two years after his appointment ends.

The state Legislature’s vote Wednesday concluded weeks of debate and political maneuvering. State Republicans tried unsuccessfully to get Secretary of State William F. Galvin to reject Mr. Patrick’s letter.

In 2004, Democrats revoked the gubernatorial power to fill Senate vacancies out of concern that then-Gov. Mitt Romney would appoint a fellow Republican had Mr. Kerry won the presidential election. As a result, they created the five-month special election.

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