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Another Of Kennedy Family To Enter Politics

PTI 03 Dec 2010, 12:53:43 IST
PTI
Boston, Dec 3 : The billboard-sized photo of Vicki Kennedy beside one of the major highways entering Boston is impossible to overlook.

The question is, what message is it sending?

Is it merely touting, as the sign reads, the attendance of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's widow at a mayoral event on immigrants and diversity? Or is it part of a low-wattage effort to maintain Vicki Kennedy's profile for a possible 2012 campaign against the man who succeeded her husband, Republican Sen. Scott Brown?

That's the hope of the roughly 1,700 members of a Facebook group "Vicki Kennedy for Senator of Massachusetts in 2012."

The interest is shared by some Democrats looking for a heavy-hitting challenger to Brown, who staged an extraordinary upset in January to claim the seat Edward Kennedy -- often called Ted, a brother of late President John F. Kennedy -- had held for nearly a half-century. He died last year.

Recent polls have shown Brown, a heretofore little-known state senator, is now the most popular politician in Massachusetts.

Yet Democrats were reinvigorated in November elections, when they repelled the Republican tide that swept much of the nation and held onto all 10 of Massachusetts' House seats, as well as its six constitutional offices, from governor to state auditor.

"I think possibly so many people are begging her to run against Scott Brown, unless she rules it out in some Shermanesque way, she is going to keep the interest alive," said Marc Landy, a Boston College political science professor. He referred to William T. Sherman, the Civil War general who famously declared he had no interest in presidential politics.

Said Todd Domke, a Republican political consultant: "A lot of Democrats are looking for a superstar, someone who is not a mere politician. Vicki Kennedy is among the few who would be viewed as a front-runner."

Another political heavyweight, Gov. Deval Patrick, ruled out his own challenge.

"No, no," he told a questioner Wednesday during a monthly radio appearance. "I have no plans, no intention, no interest in running for the Senate." Patrick, an attorney, has said he wants to a more lucrative job in the corporate world after completing his second gubernatorial term in 2015.

Kennedy decided against running for her late husband's seat in the special election Brown won. And she issued her strongest denial about a 2012 campaign last summer, when she told The Boston Globe for a magazine cover spread that she was uninterested in trying to reclaim the seat, saying "there's only one Sen. Kennedy."

A spokeswoman declined to expand upon the remarks when contacted this week by The Associated Press.

Nonetheless, the attorney and mother of two maintains a high profile that kindles speculation.

Kennedy delivered commencement addresses this year at UMass-Boston, where an institute named for her husband and focused on the Senate is being built, as well as at a Cape Cod high school.

She held election fundraisers locally for Patrick and state Treasurer-elect Steve Grossman, and nationally for Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington, as well as the Democratic National Committee.

Next week, she is a star attraction at two high-profile events: the 2010 Massachusetts Conference for Women and the fifth annual "We Are Boston" gala awards, which honor individuals and organizations promoting Boston's diversity.

A billboard touting the latter event -- featuring a lone headshot of Kennedy -- greets drivers entering the city from Interstate 93.

Landy said he doesn't believe Kennedy will ultimately run for Senate, since Brown has proven adept at reaching out to independents and Kennedy family members favor races they are likely to win.

"But why make a premature decision?" the professor said. "This way, she's the toast of the town. They never love you as much as when they want you to run."

Patrick also has the power to appoint Kennedy should the state's senior senator, John Kerry, ever step down. Kerry has been positioning himself to serve as secretary of state if Hillary Rodham Clinton resigns.

Domke said the more likely family candidate may be Edward M. Kennedy Jr., a Connecticut lawyer who won rave reviews for the eulogy he delivered at his father's funeral in August 2009.

"That would require him to move into the state, but these things happen," the consultant said.

Domke said that until Vicki Kennedy announces any campaign, Boston-area institutions are smart to take advantage of her star power for fundraising and other purposes. AP