After Tim Scott, Another Black U.S. Senator?

Paul J. Richards/Getty Images
Paul J. Richards/Getty Images

For those breathing a sigh of relief that America's political season filled with non stop campaign ads, and name calling, was finally over, here's some bad news. The nomination of Sen. John Kerry to become the country's next Secretary of State, and his anticipated confirmation is setting up one of the most hotly contested Senate contests in recent memory with some of the possible candidates mentioned including a governor, a number of members of Congress and a movie star. The race is guaranteed to garner national attention and money, in part because there are some who muse that the controversy over blocking Amb. Susan Rice's nomination for the Secretary of State post was simply to insure Kerry's ascent and therefore, another open Senate seat that Republicans might have a chance at winning. The other reason the race will likely receive the coverage of a national contest is because the Senate seat became a trophy of pride for Republicans after being held by the late liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy for nearly half a century, and then being won by Republican Scott Brown in what was billed as a shocking upset. Brown then lost in the most recent election to progressive heroine Elizabeth Warren who will be sworn into office in January.  

According to Massachusetts law, Gov. Deval Patrick must appoint someone to fill Kerry's seat temporarily until a special election can be held for his long-term replacement, 145 to 160 days after the seat becomes vacant. Patrick has made it clear that like last time a seat became vacant, following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, he plans to appoint someone who will not run for a full-term, thus allowing another candidate proper time to campaign without trying to focus on settling in as a senator simultaneously. (Last time he appointed Paul G. Kirk.) So below is a look at the most buzzed about candidates rumored to be likely contenders for Kerry's senate seat. 

Name: Gov. Deval Patrick

Age: 56

Claim to Fame: Became the first black governor in Massachusetts history in 2007. 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Not happening. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Could happen, but will take some political creativity. 

Backstory: Patrick solidified his place as a national rising star in Democratic politics with his history making election as Massachusetts' first black governor. His spirited appearances on programs like "Meet the Press" as a surrogate representing the Obama campaign confirmed that he is someone who will likely have a future on the national political stage. The question has become not if Patrick will run for higher office in some capacity, but when and for what office? Patrick will soon appoint an interim senator but the million dollar question for many is whether Patrick will then announce that he will run for Kerry's senate seat himself. Of all of the likely Democratic politicians, Patrick has highest name recognition, and is likely best positioned to raise the money necessary to compete with a popular and well-financed Republican candidate like Scott Brown. But polls show Brown with a lead against any likely Democratic contender, which means such a run would be a gamble for Patrick. After all, the last Democrat who took on Brown, Martha Coakley, found her once promising political career permanently tarnished by the loss, and instead of being well positioned to becoming the first female governor of Massachusetts, she is now more likely to become a trivia question. This means Patrick has a very real dilemma on his hands. He can either serve out his term as governor, and leave on a high note and plot a run for Senate or even president someday or take a risk and run for Senate now. It's a tough call. 

Name: Sen. Scott Brown

Age: 53

Claim to fame: Put the senate seat held by legendary Democrat Ted Kennedy for nearly half a century, in Republican hands with his upset win in 2010. 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Not happening. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Very likely. 

Backstory: Overnight Brown became a national celebrity with his stunning upset win of the Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy following Kennedy's passing; however, just as Kennedy's seat became a major trophy for Republicans, Democrats felt the same way about winning it back and Brown was defeated after just two years in office by progressive shero Elizabeth Warren in a relatively close race. Polls show him leading any likely Democratic contender if he decides to run again. As this article went to press, Brown was grieving the death of his father who passed away just before Christmas and therefore his staff has not released a statement regarding his intention to run or not. 


Ben Affleck

Age: 40

Claim to Fame: Actor and Academy Award winning screenwriter.

Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Zero. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Not happening—even though the media really wants it too. 


Backstory: People seem to love it when Hollywood and politics intersect. Actors and entertainers such as Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood have all enjoyed successful careers in politics. The media really loves it which is why so many seemed so excited to speculate on the possibility of a "Sen. Affleck" after the actor seemed to express interest in a potential political career during an interview with CBS's Bob Schieffer. Though Affleck is known for his support of Democratic causes, and is currently using his public profile to call attention to the atrocities in the Congo, he admitted in another interview, with GQ that he has been asked to run for office before, and has little interest in doing so. 

Gov. Michael Dukakis 

Age: 79

Claim to Fame: Former governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee. 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Likely. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Not happening. 

Backstory: Since his landslide loss to George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential race, Dukakis has become one of the party's elder statesmen. For this reason he is considered a strong contender to be appointed interim Senator. 


Name: Prof. Charles Ogletree

Age: 59

Claim to Fame: One of America's foremost experts on race and the law and a professor of both Obamas at Harvard law school. 


Likelihood of being appointed the Senate: Possible.

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Not happening.

Backstory: Though one of the world's most distinguished professors on race and the law in America, Ogletree is now best known for his star former students, among them President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Ogletree has remained close with the Obamas and is widely respected, and not interested in a long-term political career. For this reason his appointment as interim Senator is not beyond the realm of possibility. 


Name: Ted Kennedy, Jr. 

Age: 51

Claim to Fame: The son of the late Ted Kennedy, Sr. who served in the U.S. Senate representing Massachusetts for forty seven years, the junior Kennedy has distinguished himself as an advocate and activist on behalf of those with disabilities. He lost his leg to cancer in 1973. 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Unlikely. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Not happening. 

Backstory: There is a small chance Kennedy could be appointed to a Senate seat in the state his father represented for so long, if only because he took himself out of the running to actually run for the seat after the tenure of the interim, appointed Senator comes to a close. On Christmas Eve Kennedy announced that he would not run, disappointing some Democratic activists who tried to recruit him. He certainly wasn't a shoo-in, however. In addition to his relatively thin political resume (his work as a disability rights activist aside) Kennedy is not a resident of Massachusetts but Connecticut, meaning he would have had to move to even begin a run but it wouldn't be the first time someone in his family did that. His late uncle Robert Kennedy famously moved to New York to run for the Senate. He won, and became a legendary figure in political history. 


Name: Vicki Reggie Kennedy

Age: 58

Claim to Fame: The widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and a former high powered Washington attorney, many political types were disappointed she did not run for Sen. Kennedy's seat last time around. As a result Massachusetts Attorney Martha Coakley received the Democratic nomination, ran a lackluster campaign that bordered on embarrassing, and as a result Republican Scott Brown won what was supposed to be a comfortably Democratic seat. 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Possible. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Not likely. 

Backstory: Kennedy was begged by Massachusetts Democrats to run for her late husband's seat. Some still believe if she had, then the seat never would have ended up in Republican hands. It has been rumored that Kennedy does not particularly enjoy politicking or the rigors of a campaign and a race against a well-funded candidate like Scott Brown. But Reggie Kennedy is well respected and she and her late husband enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the Obamas, and the respect of many members of the Senate in both parties so she might make an ideal interim Senator. 


Name: Rep. Mike Capuano

Age: 60

Claim to Fame: Former Mayor of Somerville and six term Congressman representing Massachusetts' 8th congressional district. (He was just re-elected to his seventh term.) 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Not likely.

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Good. 

Backstory: Capuano ran, and lost in the last primary to win an open Senate seat in Massachusetts following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, which means he will likely want to campaign for the seat again. This means Patrick, by his own admission, would be unlikely to appoint Capuano. But if Capuano decides to throw his hat in the ring for the next election for a Massachusetts Senate seat, he will be considered a formidable contender. Many considered him a much stronger general election candidate against Scott Brown last time around than the eventual nominee, Martha Coakley. 


Name: Rep. Ed Markey

Age: 66

Claim to fame: Member of congress representing Massachusetts' 7th congressional district. 


Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Not happening. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Possible. 

Backstory: Markey has previously considered running for the Senate, although when Sen. Kennedy's seat became open last time he instead opted to endorse fellow Congressman Mike Capuano. At 66, it is likely he may feel compelled to run for a seat he is believed to have had his eye on for some time. 


Name: Gov. William Weld

Age: 67

Claim to fame: Former governor of Massachusetts.

Likelihood of being appointed to the Senate: Not happening. 

Likelihood of being elected to the Senate: Possible, but unlikely.

Backstory: Before Scott Brown, Weld was the last Republican to run a competitive campaign for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. His loss to Sen. John Kerry preceded Kerry's run for the presidency. As a result Weld ended up helping President George W. Bush prep for the presidential debates. For some Weld may be a sentimental pick for a Senate appointment. He became something of a political martyr when his nomination to become Ambassador to Mexico in the Clinton administration was blocked by fellow Republican Jesse Helms who took issue with Weld's moderate record. Though the controversy cut short Weld's career in public service, it didn't curtail his independent streak. In 2008 he supported Gov. Mitt Romney in the GOP primary and eventual President Barack Obama in the general election. 


Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter

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