Calling the Bluff – High stakes political poker game over Senate seat

By Seth Daniel

and Joshua Resnek

A high-stakes poker game between two local Congressmen is unfolding this week in regards to a potential run for the vacated U.S. Senate seat of the late Edward “Ted” Kennedy.

However, it is the dealer who holds all the cards in the matter, and the dealer is Joe Kennedy.

Revere Congressman Ed Markey, sources said, flew to Boston on Tuesday morning and met with Boston public relations guru George Regan to discuss setting up a campaign for the Senate seat.

Meanwhile, other sources said, that ignited a fire under another potential candidate, East Boston’s Congressman Michael Capuano. Capuano, apparently, had been interested in the seat and was prepared to start a campaign, but was waiting to see what kind of cards Markey was holding.

Now, Markey – the dean of the Congressional delegation – has played the bluff and Capuano is preparing to make a quick announcement for the seat in order to stave off Markey’s potential bid.

Nevertheless, all of that posturing between the two Massachusetts Congressmen, means nothing if Joe Kennedy – who runs a popular heating oil charity and is also the assumed heir to the Kennedy throne – decides to run for the seat.

Kennedy will make an announcement in two days time, either thumbs up or thumbs down, family sources told the Journal.

If he decides to run, popular sentiment is that all other potential candidates will back off. A Suffolk University poll conducted before the late Sen. Ted Kennedy passed away indicated that Joe Kennedy would easily carry any special election.

One candidate, State Attorney General Martha Coakley has already pulled official papers to run for the seat. Gov. Deval Patrick announced Monday that the Special election would be Jan. 19, 2010. A possible primary election would be Dec. 8.

It is unclear if the State Legislature will change the state law to allow Gov. Patrick to appoint an interim senator to the post – as has stirred so much controversy. However, sources told the Journal that former Revere state senator and Senate President Robert Travaglini is on a short list of three people that the governor is considering for any interim appointment.

Such a position is attractive, sources said, because it allows unrestricted access to the Senate floor for the remainder of a person’s life. Once a senator, always a senator, as the saying goes.

Meanwhile, in Revere, talk of Markey leaving his post has started the political dominoes falling.

Mayor Tom Ambrosino – as he has said so many times – reiterated his interest and desire to run for Markey’s seat if it opens up.

“I would [run for that seat] if he were to decide to seek another position,” said the mayor. “I’ve said for some time that I would be interested in that. Right now, I find that it’s too hypothetical at this point…I would be surprised if Markey runs. He has such a powerful position in the House right now. I haven’t discussed it or set anything up at the moment. We’ll see what happens.”

Of course, were the mayor to leave, Council President Dan Rizzo would assume mayoral duties, and he is interested in running outright for the mayoral seat. He has made no bones about that for several years.

Again, letting the dominoes fall, if Rizzo were to leave then it would open up another potential at-large seat on the City Council – a seat that would be filled by whoever finishes sixth in the Council at-large race in this November’s City Election.

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