William "Mo" Cowan, right, former chief of staff for Gov. Deval… (Massachusetts Governor's…)
WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has named his former chief of staff to temporarily fill the Senate seat being vacated by John Kerry, and called a special election for June 25 for voters to choose a permanent replacement for the incoming secretary of State.
Patrick, a Democrat, chose William "Mo" Cowan, who also served as his chief legal counsel, over two more familiar names in Bay State politics: former Rep. Barney Frank, who had actively lobbied for the appointment, and Victoria Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Cowan will briefly be the Senate's second African American member, joining another appointee, Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina. He'll also be the second-ever African American senator from Massachusetts, after Republican Edward Brooke.
In a statement, Patrick praised Cowan's service "on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger commonwealth for the next generation."
"The people of the commonwealth have benefited from his wisdom and good judgment during his time in our office, and will again in the Senate," Patrick said.
The pick will be formally introduced at a news conference later Wednesday morning.
Shortly before the death of Kennedy in 2009, Massachusetts lawmakers changed state law regarding Senate vacancies, requiring the governor to make a temporary appointment before a special election would be held, and the appointee to pledge not to run for the unexpired term.
Democratic Rep. Ed Markey has already announced his candidacy to complete Kerry's term, which ends in January 2015. His Democratic colleague Stephen Lynch is expected to announce his candidacy later this week. A primary would be held May 14, according to state law.
Speculation on the Republican side centers on Scott Brown, who won an upset victory in the 2010 special election to fill Kennedy's seat, but lost his bid for a full term in November to Elizabeth Warren. The Associated Press reported Thursday that Republican officials close to Brown say he is "leaning strongly toward running." He's also been reportedly considering a 2014 run for governor.
Kerry, after winning an easy 94-3 confirmation vote from his colleagues Tuesday, will deliver his farewell address in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon ahead of his resignation Friday.
That elevates the newly elected Warren to the state's senior senator after a matter of weeks, a "meteoric" rise she joked about with colleagues during Tuesday's vote. Kerry waited 26 years for the designation.
"I’m staying to make sure it really happens,” she told another senator as she stood in the well of the chamber.
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