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The early 2010 special election to replace the late Edward Kennedy has been frozen for the past week, as Democrats have waited on the 800 pound-gorilla in the field, former Congressman and Kennedy nephew, Joseph Kennedy II.

Today's news, somewhat of a surprise, should thaw things out considerably:

Joseph P. Kennedy II announced today that he will not seek the Senate seat held by his uncle, a move likely to end the Kennedy family's half century of political dominance in Massachusetts and entice several other candidates to jump into the race.

Kennedy II, popular both from his days as a Congressman and his more recent work at the head of a nonprofit designed to bring free heating oil to impoverished homes, decided to continue his nonprofit work rather than make a return to elective politics.

His work, and above all else his name, had kept many power players in Massachusetts politics relegated to the sidelines, awaiting his decision. Only state Attorney General Martha Coakley had already announced plans to run in the Special election, though Congressman Stephen Lynch had also pulled papers.

Kennedy's departure, however, should explode the size of the Democratic field in the special. Several other Congressman are likely to consider bids, including Michael Capuano and John Tierney. Another name likely to leap into the fray is current UM-Lowell President (and former 5th district Congressman) Marty Meehan, who left Congress with nearly $5 million in cash-on-hand. That is money he could use to launch himself into the first tier of a short-cycle special election.

On the Republican side, the silence is deafening. The GOP has already lost its one marquee challenger (assuming, of course, that Mitt Romney does not try to reignite a political career in the state he routinely derided while running for President). Kerry Healey, the former state lieutenant governor who lost badly in a bid for Governor in 2006, announced on Sunday that she would not be a candidate for the seat. There are few high-profile names for the GOP to choose from, with the most notable names still out there ranging from former Governor Paul Cellucci (who, in a recent interview, said that he supported Deval Patrick's proposal to appoint an interim Senator prior to the special election) to former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Sep 07, 2009 at 02:18 PM PDT.

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