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December 24, 2012

Kerry Cabinet nod opens succession doors

BOSTON — Assuming that U.S. Sen. John Kerry clears his Senate confirmation to become U.S. Secretary of State, the 145-to-160-day countdown to a special election would be triggered by his letter of resignation, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin says.

And with President Barack Obama having formally nominated Kerry to the post on Friday, Galvin said he was “delighted” for Kerry and said he expects bipartisan agreement that Kerry is qualified to succeed Hillary Clinton.

But Galvin began a Friday meeting with reporters by saying, “Here we go again,” referring to the process leading up to filling Kerry’s seat until it comes up for full re-election in November 2014.

Galvin said the Legislature has been clear in its determination to keep the latest iteration of its succession law unchanged, and said that the law worked well following the death of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

“I think the election worked out well, maybe not well for my party, the last time. We had over 2 million people participate,” Galvin said, referring to the January 2010 special election that sent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to Washington.

“There’s a little more flexibility this time” because Kerry will select the date of his resignation, he said.

Gov. Deval Patrick would set the date of the election, Galvin said.

“I’m glad for Sen. Kerry, for Massachusetts, and for the country,” Galvin said.

Galvin said he thought Kerry would take office in January, shortly after Obama is sworn in for a second term on Jan. 21.

“Traditionally, the Cabinet takes office almost immediately after the president is re-sworn,” Galvin said. He said, “It’s unlikely that there will be much delay.”

Galvin said that it is technically possible for Patrick not to appoint an interim senator, and said there is no legal restriction that bars an interim for running for the office.

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