With US Senate election over, speculation turns to future
BOSTON — The Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren lawn signs are still dotting the landscape, but in politics-obsessed Massachusetts, speculation is already turning to the next election — or two.
The first is the 2014 race for governor. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick has pledged not to seek a third term, leaving an open campaign for the state’s top elected office.
The second hinges on whether President Barack Obama taps Sen. John Kerry to serve as secretary of state. That would prompt yet another Senate election in Massachusetts, after this year’s contest and the 2010 special election. If Kerry remains in the Senate, he faces a re-election campaign in 2014.
Given the drubbing Massachusetts Republicans suffered this week — losing not only the U.S. Senate race, but a close contest in the 6th Congressional District and a handful of Statehouse seats — much of the political chatter is focused on how the party can regain its footing.
Peter Blute, the party’s deputy chairman, said it’s too early to start writing political obituaries. He blamed the losses on a “wave election” where energized Democrats turned out in droves for the presidential and Senate contests.
Massachusetts has strong Republican candidates, Blute said, including Brown, still one of the most popular Republicans in the state despite his loss Tuesday.
Blute pointed to others potential GOP candidates, including former gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker; Richard Tisei, who lost the 6th District contest to Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Tierney; and state Rep. Daniel Winslow, chief legal counsel for then-Gov. Mitt Romney.
Another potential candidate is former Gov. William Weld, who recently moved back to Massachusetts to take a job as partner with the Mintz Levin law firm.
Weld was on the campaign trail the Sunday before Election Day, cheering Brown on and casting the election as a battle of “man vs. machine.”
“Bill Weld would be a great candidate,” Blute said. “He had style and aplomb and people remember that.”
Democrats have an equally deep political team.
Among possible candidates for governor are state Treasurer Steven Grossman, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and Attorney General Martha Coakley. The list of possible Democratic candidates for an open Senate seat may be an even longer, including many members of the U.S. House, such as Rep. Michael Capuano.
And even though he was just elected to his first term in the state’s 4th Congressional District, Joseph Kennedy III can’t be dismissed as a possible Senate hopeful given how much weight the Kennedy name still holds in Massachusetts.
Publicly, Kerry has said he’s focused on his day job, but the speculation around his possible appointment as secretary of state has surged.
Kerry gave an impassioned defense of Obama during the Democratic National Convention. Current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has already said she doesn’t want to serve another four years.
Despite his loss, Brown has several factors in his favor as a potential candidate: He remains popular, his name recognition is high and he has a statewide political organization.
Whether he wants to endure a third Senate race is an open question, although Brown, deliberately or not, helped stoke expectations during his concession speech when he said, “There are no obstacles you can’t overcome and defeat is only temporary.”
Asked this week about the possibility of a Kerry departure — which would suddenly make her the state’s senior senator — Sen.-elect Warren praised Kerry while tamping down expectations.
“Sen. Kerry is an enormously talented man and a dedicated public servant. I have no doubt he would make an extraordinary secretary of state, but right now he’s making tremendous contributions to our country through his work in the United States Senate,” Warren said.
Political watchers have also been abuzz about Patrick’s future. That buzzing only grew louder at the end of the week when Patrick and wife Diane were invited to a “social dinner” with Obama at the White House.
Patrick, a friend of Obama with whom he shares Chicago roots, played a prominent role in the president’s re-election campaign. He delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention and served as a frequent surrogate for Obama in television appearances.
Patrick has tried to squash talk of any role in an Obama second term, pledging to serve out his final two years as governor.
If Kerry becomes secretary of state, however, Patrick must name an interim senator to fill the vacancy until a special election is held.
Patrick, who said Kerry would be a “terrific secretary of state,” said he hasn’t thought that far ahead.
“I don’t have a secret list,” Patrick said. “This is all wild speculation.”