Momentum builds for appointment to Kennedy seat

Massachusetts lawmakers are beginning to rally behind a plan that would allow for a special appointment to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D) seat, giving Democrats in Washington the votes they need to advance their agenda.

State law requires a special election to fill a vacancy, to be held between 145 and 160 days of a vacancy occurring. The law was changed in 2004, when Sen. John Kerry (D) sought the White House and Republican Gov. Mitt Romney (R) held the power to appoint a replacement.

Were a special election to occur, virtually all of the state's ten Democratic members of Congress have been mentioned as potential candidates, along with several widely-known officials who have held office in the state.

But with healthcare legislation and the rest of an ambitious Democratic agenda hanging in the balance, support is growing for a quick legislative fix, which would give Gov. Deval Patrick (D) the power to appoint a temporary replacement.

It is an idea Kennedy himself urged on his home state legislators. In a letter last week, Kennedy told Patrick and leaders in both chambers on Beacon Hill he supported changing the law.

Democratic leaders expressed willingness to push forward with such a proposal, but it would take time to work its way through the state legislative process, which could delay any possible appointment significantly and perhaps make the effort moot.

Patrick told a local radio station Wednesday that he would support such a change, and state Senate President Therese Murray has reportedly warmed to the idea after giving it a cold reception.

Patrick said he would urge the State Legislature to adopt the change.