Over the next few months, as candidates for the US Senate travel the state, you're likely to hear them say again and again that nobody can ever truly replace Ted Kennedy. That's the truth. But what does the state want next, after such a legendary, larger-than-life figure? Someone to carry on his family legacy? Someone dedicated to his liberal ideals? Someone with a measure of his valuable clout in Washington? Or perhaps someone representing a clean break from all things Kennedy?
Those are the questions that will help determine which of the hopefuls becomes his successor. They are already lining up for the campaign, which will be a relatively quick sprint to a December 8 primary and January 19 general election.
To compete, they must have several million dollars at the ready — or the ability to raise that kind of cash in a hurry. They'll have to build a statewide operation overnight, and instantly find a way to stand out from among the field of very capable candidates.
And, right off the bat, just to get on the ballot, they need to collect 10,000 legitimate nominating signatures.
For those reasons, potential candidates have been making their decisions quickly. Mostly, they have been saying "No" — that list of decliners includes Andrew Card, Ed Delahunt, Barney Frank, Joe Kennedy II, Stephen Lynch, Ed Markey, James McGovern, Marty Meehan, Christy Mihos, Tim Murray, Richard Neal, John Tierney, and Nikki Tsongas.
That leaves us with a handful of potential Democrats, and one Republican, to fight it out for Kennedy's seat. They are: Democrats (in alphabetical order) Michael Capuano, Martha Coakley, Vicki Kennedy, Alan Khazei, and Stephen Pagliuca, and Republican Scott Brown.
The field may not be finalized, but enough is known to allow us to take a preliminary look at who they are, how the Kennedy legacy might work to their advantage, and how each might or might not end up as the next US senator from Massachusetts.