KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Election Date Set For Kennedy’s Replacement; Dodd Ponders Political Future

A special election for Kennedy's vacant Senate seat is scheduled for Jan. 19, leaving candidates little time to prepare their campaigns.

"Amid fevered speculation about possible contenders for Senator Edward M. Kennedy's seat, Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday scheduled a special election for Jan. 19 and said he would keep pushing the state legislature to change the law so he could name an interim successor," The New York Times reports. The primary will be held on Dec. 8. "Shortly before his death last week, Mr. Kennedy wrote legislative leaders asking them to revise the law so his seat would not stay vacant for months. The legislature indicated Monday that it would decide quickly whether to grant his request, scheduling a public hearing on the proposal for Sept. 9." This is Massachusetts's first open Senate seat since 1984, and there is buzz about "two possible candidates in particular: Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy's widow, and Joseph P. Kennedy II, his nephew" (Goodnough, 8/31).

Politico reports that the election schedule "gives all the candidates a short time frame - barely three months - to begin preparing their campaigns and raising money before the primary. It certainly gives the brand-name contenders - former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, Rep. Ed Markey, state Attorney General Martha Coakley - an early advantage over candidates who are known only in their individual districts" (Kraushaar, 9/1).

Meanwhile, "(s)takeholders in the health care debate are waiting to see whether Sen. Chris Dodd decides to take over the late Ted Kennedy's chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - and, if so, which Chris Dodd shows up for the job," Politico reports in a second article. "Facing the toughest reelection fight of his 29-year Senate career, Dodd could feel enormous pressure to cut a deal and get something - anything - through the Senate in order to tout a major legislative achievement back home in Connecticut." But a deal could also mean angering "liberal Democrats, whose energy and money Dodd will need to mount a come-from-behind victory against his likely challenger, former GOP Rep. Rob Simmons." To become Chairman of HELP, Dodd would have to relinquish his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee, "where centrist Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is next in line. If Dodd chooses to stay at Banking, liberal Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would be next for HELP - if he were to give up his Agriculture Committee chairmanship to get it. If both Dodd and Harkin were to pass on the HELP Committee chairmanship, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) would get the job instead" (Bresnahan and Raju, 9/1).

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