Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick tapped former Democratic Party Chairman Paul G. Kirk Thursday to temporarily fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy last month.
Patrick admitted that choosing the late senator’s longtime aide and friend was a controversial move but said that the issues before Congress were "too important to Massachusetts for us to be one voice short."
Kirk served on Kennedy's staff for eight years and is chairman of the JFK Library Foundation. "[Sen. Kennedy] often said that representing the people of Massachusetts in the Senate of the United States was the highest honor that he could possible imagine, and it is certainly nothing that I imagined, but it will be my highest honor, as well," Kirk said. He will serve in the post until voters pick a replacement in a special election on Jan. 19. Kirk said he will honor Patrick’s request not to run as a candidate in that special election.
Five years ago, when Republican Mitt Romney was governor, the Massachusetts Legislature denied him the authority to appoint someone to the U.S. Senate. The newly enacted measure means that President Obama now has the 60 Democratic votes needed to pass his health care overhaul.
"Paul Kirk shares Ted's love of the commonwealth and the country and shares his passion for public service," said Sen. John Kerry. "He is going to hit the ground running."
Kennedy died Aug. 25 after battling brain cancer for a year. Present at Thursday’s announcement about Kirk was the late senator’s widow, Vicki, and son, Edward Jr.