Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr.’s name has emerged as one of the top candidates to fill Edward M. Kennedy’s ’54-’56 Senate seat in media reports, even as speculation swirled late last night that Mass. Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 would instead pick Paul G. Kirk Jr., a longtime friend of Kennedy’s, as a stand-in for the late liberal senator.
According to media reports, Patrick is slated to announce his choice as early as tomorrow. The decision has garnered heightened scrutiny and pressure from Congressional Democrats who fear that a Senate majority without a vote from Kennedy’s former seat may not be sufficient to pass health-care reform.
The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill yesterday to authorize Patrick to appoint an interim Senator until a permanent successor can be chosen by special election. In what was seen as an effort to bolster Democratic efforts to pass a health-care reform package, Kennedy requested in the weeks before his death that the state legislature act to amend the law to allow for an interim successor to be put in place immediately after his death.
In addition to Kirk and Ogletree, media speculation points to former Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy and former Governor Michael Dukakis as other potential candidates.
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Kennedy, and his two sons, U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy Jr., have informed Patrick that Kirk, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is their first choice.
Senator Kennedy’s successor will serve until a permanent replacement is selected during a Jan. 19 special election.
Yesterday, Ogletree received a ringing endorsement from colleagues at the Law School who praised his qualities as a potential senator.
Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe—a friend of Ogletree’s and a mentor to President Obama during his time at the Law School—said Ogletree would make an excellent replacement for Kennedy.
Tribe declined to comment as to whether he thought Ogletree was interested in the position, saying only that “[Ogletree] has said publicly that he is committed to the work that he is doing with the Hamilton Institute and that he has no other interests.”
But Law School Professor Alan M. Dershowitz offered a far less restrained assessment yesterday.
“It would be the most wonderful thing imaginable!” he said. “‘Tree’ would be a most distinguished senator—he brings every conceivable talent to bear: he’s brilliant, he’s politically sophisticated, and he has a heart of gold.”
As to whether Ogletree is interested in the position, Dershowitz said he could only hope that he would be willing to take on the role.