Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy -- Senate Elections

A proposal to reinstate Massachusetts's prior system of filling U.S. Senate vacancies by gubernatorial appointment, pending a special election, seems to be back on the front burner.

If Massachusetts had not had such a procedure in 1960, the late Ted Kennedy might never have got his start in the U.S. Senate.

Massachusetts reelected John Kennedy to the Senate on November 4, 1958. He resigned from the Senate on December 22, 1960, after having been elected president.

The family seemed to view the Senate seat as their personal property, to be bequeathed to the next brother in line. But that brother, Robert, was instead appointed attorney general, under the more lax nepotism rules in place at that time.

The next brother, Ted, had a problem. He was only 28 years old, and therefore two years short of the constitutional minimum age for senators. John Kennedy arranged the appointment of a family friend to keep the seat available for Ted, in the special election that would be held in 1962.

The 1962 special election was a nepotism-fest. The president's brother faced off in the Democratic primary against Edward McCormack, nephew of Speaker John McCormack. Having cleared that hurdle, Kennedy's unsuccessful Republican opponent in the general election was George Cabot Lodge, son of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., the incumbent whom John Kennedy had defeated to originally take the Senate seat in 1952.

Ted Kennedy successfully ran for a full term by proxy, in 1964, while recovering from a broken back.

After that, he continued to be reelected quite easily. His most difficult reelection contest came in 1994. A transplanted Mormon who had made millions in the investment world, and was a political neophyte, gave him a bit of, if you'll excuse the expression, a run for his money. That neophyte was Mitt Romney, later governor of Massachusetts, and a Republican presidential candidate. (Another nepotism case, Mitt is the son of former Michigan Governor George Romney.) Kennedy won with 58%.

Kennedy was lucky in the sense that 1994 was the only time he was up for reelection in a year with a general pro-Republican trend. He was able to sit out such strong Republican years as 1966 and 1980.

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