Paul Kirk Appointed to Kennedy's Seat

Lawmakers passed legislation in the past few days allowing Governor Deval Patrick to name an interim senator.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick just announced that former DNC chairman Paul Kirk will be taking Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Reuters reports:

Kirk, backed for the post by Kennedy's wife Victoria and his two sons, will fill the seat until voters in Massachusetts elect a permanent replacement in January. His appointment will restore a 60-seat Senate majority for the Democrats that could help President Barack Obama's push to overhaul healthcare.

Kirk, a 71-year-old attorney who was Kennedy's special assistant in the 1970s and remains close to his family, was seen as a natural candidate to take over the Senate seat.

Lawmakers in heavily Democratic Massachusetts passed legislation in the past few days allowing Governor Deval Patrick to name an interim senator, something Kennedy pushed for before he died in August from cancer so his party would not lose a key vote during the healthcare debate.

"The issues before the Congress and the nation are too important for us to be one voice short," Patrick told reporters as he appointed Kirk after signing the legislation.

Kennedy was a towering figure in the U.S. Senate for nearly half a century and made healthcare reform his signature issue as he carried on his storied family's political legacy.

Without an interim replacement, his seat would have lain vacant until a January 19 special election of a permanent senator to serve through 2012.

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