Senate shuffle

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  August 27, 2008

Second, there is the dicey question of redistricting. Massachusetts is expected to lose one congressional seat after the 2010 census, with the remaining nine to be re-drawn by the state legislature. The most junior member of the delegation, Niki Tsongas, may be untouchable as the only woman of the group. The member considered most likely to retire, John Olver, represents the district most geographically difficult (westernmost Massachusetts) to carve out of existence. The upshot: the closer we get to Kennedy’s scheduled re-election in 2012, the clearer it will be whose career in Congress will be imperiled — giving them a good reason to shoot for the Senate.

And third, there’s the secret that has been pushed into plain sight by this past week’s Kennedy talk: the likelihood that John Kerry may vacate his seat for a cabinet position, should Obama be elected president.

Kerry, who sources say has been working hard behind the scenes for Obama’s campaign, clearly doesn’t want this speculation out there — it can’t help his current re-election campaign, after all, for people to think he’s planning to bail two months after they cast their ballots.

But several sources say that they expect Kerry to be named to a high-level post, probably Secretary of State, if Obama wins.

That would precipitate a special election to replace him next year — perhaps giving the state’s pols two open Senate races back-to-back after a quarter-century without one.

Ladies first?
There is another factor in a potential Senate race: local observers agree that a powerful bloc of Democratic women — led by State Senate president Therese Murray, political activist Barbara Lee, and a host of others — who helped elect Tsongas and have backed Hillary Clinton, will push hard for the election of the first female US Senator in the state’s history.

Tsongas is unlikely to be their candidate — she barely won her congressional race and is not considered ready for the statewide try.

The obvious choice is Martha Coakley. Coakley was considered a potential front-runner four years ago, when she was Middlesex District Attorney; since then she has run and won as Attorney General.

People pose two questions about Coakley. First, would she run before serving a full term as AG? Second, does she have her heart set instead on being governor?

One source close to Coakley says that the latter is indeed true; as she is newly married, the source speculates, she may not want to move to Washington.

Others strongly disagree, and say that Coakley wants to be a senator. One points with interest to Coakley’s surprisingly anemic fundraising efforts since taking office. Coakley has less than $200,000 in her campaign account — an account that she would not be able to transfer into a federal committee for a Senate campaign. “She’s waiting to tap her donors until she opens a federal fund,” this source speculates. (The opposite argument can be applied to Treasurer Tim Cahill, whose ever-ballooning war chest suggests plans to run for governor, not Senate.)

There would seem to be few other powerhouse Democratic women to deny Coakley the backing of that group — except one notable one, who happens to be married to Ted Kennedy.

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