Democrats Wants Kennedy Widow To Run For Senate

If you want a sign of just how hard it’s going to be for Massachusetts Democrats to unseat Scott Brown in 2012, just take a look at who some of them want to run against him:

Nearly one year after Edward M. Kennedy’s death, prominent Democrats in Washington and Massachusetts are promoting his widow as the party’s best shot at winning back the Senate seat he held for nearly five decades.

Though she has seemed to bat down the idea of challenging Sen. Scott Brown (R) in 2012, Victoria Reggie Kennedy has been in some ways acting the part of a candidate. She has raised her public profile by campaigning for other politicians and appearing at events across the country.

The prospect of her candidacy is fast becoming a source of family tension, according to several Kennedy intimates. Some relatives fear that a campaign against Brown — a popular figure even in liberal Massachusetts — would distract Kennedy from promoting her late husband’s legacy, they said.

Vicki Kennedy, a lawyer from a powerful political family in Louisiana who married into the Kennedy dynasty in 1992, declined to be interviewed for this article. She passed up the chance to run for the seat last year, and several confidants said she has told them that she has no plans to run this time.

But some party leaders have been quietly promoting her as their preferred candidate. They believe her stature and the goodwill she earned after her husband’s death on Aug. 25 put her in a uniquely strong position.

Phil Johnston, a former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said he and many others have urged her to run, and Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) said she would be “a superb candidate, no question.”

“Does she have it? Yeah, she’s got it in spades,” said Delahunt, a close friend of Kennedy’s. “Anyone would tout her if you’re trying to recruit candidates.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is among those quietly promoting her candidacy, according to several Democratic sources in Massachusetts. Schumer declined to comment.

In an interview, however, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), the youngest of Edward Kennedy’s three children, said he wished his stepmother would focus her energy exclusively on raising money to build the endowment of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire future leaders.

“As a politician, it’s not as if I don’t get frustrated by seeing the opportunities missed in the last year for amazing events with this president, this speaker and others who have demonstrated their willingness time and again to honor Dad’s legacy,” said Kennedy, who has long had a troubled relationship with his stepmother. “You know the phrase, ‘You make hay while the sun shines?’ This was the year to do it.”

Kennedy herself, though, seems to have made up her mind:

“I think there’s more than one way to serve,” Kennedy says, sitting in jeans and a pink blouse in the home the two shared in Washington, D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. “And for me, that’s not it. I have enormous respect for people who do. And I think I can have a wonderful, productive life serving, but that doesn’t have to be elective office.”

Brown remains very popular among Massachusetts voters, especially for a Republican. So, absent a change in circumstances, it would appear he’s headed for re-election regardless of who’s running against him. Whoever it is, though, most likely won’t be named Kennedy.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.