An Era Ends: Special Election May Change the Face of Massachusetts Politics
January 12, 2010
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed former Stonehill trustee and honorary degree recipient Paul Kirk (pictured left) to fill the vacant seat of the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy back in September. With Kirk's term expiring, the state is preparing for a special election to be held on January 19.
"For the first time in more than 40 years, someone else will be elected to represent Massachusetts in the Senate seat filled by Ted Kennedy and, before him, John F. Kennedy," notes Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Martin Institute Peter Ubertaccio on the upcoming election.
"It marks a definitive end to an era we are unlikely to see again. It may result in the first woman, Martha Coakley, to represent our state in the U.S. Senate, and only the fourth woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts."
In December, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Democratic primary, beating out three opponents. State Senator Scott Brown won the Republican primary, defeating Jack Robinson. Joseph Kennedy, who has no relation to the Kennedy family, is running as an independent.
The latest poll, released by the Boston Globe on Sunday, has Coakley 15-percentage-points ahead of Brown, who has faced an uphill battle from the start as Massachusetts has not sent a Republican to the Senate since Edward Brooke's reelection in 1972.
However, another poll released on Saturday, has Brown one point ahead of Coakley. Many feel Brown may be benefitting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and strong support from independent voters.
The two met for a heated final debate on Monday night, fighting bitterly over national security, health care and taxes.
Ubertaccio (pictured left) says the special election, combined with a competitive Governor's race later this year, may be the beginning of a "serious reshuffling of political desks with public officials jockeying for new positions and the possibility of new faces on the horizon."
"We are already seeing serious and competitive races underway for a number of statewide and county offices," notes Ubertaccio. The 2010 elections for all statewide offices, the legislature, county offices, and U.S. House of Representatives will be held on November 2.
Ubertaccio also says the special election offers the Republican Party a real test of new viability.
"A close race, let alone an unexpected victory by Scott Brown, may mark the beginning of the GOP's return to relevancy in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic," says Ubertaccio.
"Such a turn of events will have a noticeable impact not only in Boston politics but in Washington D.C., where pundits are attempting to assess the impact of the President's dropping poll numbers on the Democratic Party."
Later this semester, Kirk will be recognized by Stonehill's St. Thomas More Law Society, the pre-law student-run organization on campus. That event will take place on Wednesday, April 14 in Boston.
Kirk served three consecutive terms on Stonehill's Board of Trustees from 1986-2006. In April of 2008, he became a trustee emeritus. In 2002, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Stonehill and delivered the keynote address at Commencement.
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