BOSTON (State House News Service) - Sen. Benjamin Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat, told the News Service on Friday that if U.S. Sen. John Kerry is tapped for secretary of state, he believes he would be ready to launch a statewide campaign to succeed him, though he insisted he has not yet made up his mind.
Downing, 31, was just reelected to his fourth term in the Massachusetts Senate representing Berkshire County, a small but strong base of support for Democratic candidates.
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice's decision on Thursday to withdraw her name from consideration for the State Department post has focused all eyes on Kerry as President Barack Obama's likely choice to replace Hillary Clinton when she leaves.
"I'm waiting to see like everybody else. If Sen. Kerry's chosen we have a great secretary of state. If not we have a great senator," Downing said. "If he is picked, I'm definitely going to consider it."
Asked whether he would be ready to launch a statewide campaign on short notice, Downing said, "I think so."
Another vacancy in the U.S. Senate would require Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint an interim senator and schedule a special election within 145 to 160 days of Kerry's resignation. The senior senator's departure would touch of a frenzy of interest from Democrats. Several members of the Congressional delegation, including Reps. Michael Capuano and Edward Markey are considered to be possible candidates.
On the Republican side, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has hinted at his interest in running again after losing his re-election bid in November to Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren. Brown would likely clear the GOP field, and is familiar with the shortened special election, winning one in 2010 that propelled him from the state Senate to Washington.
Rice acknowledged in a letter to the president that her nomination would touch off a bitter fight with Republicans determined to block her appointment over her handling of and public statements about the consulate attack in Benghazi. Many senators have suggested Kerry would be a more palatable choice.
"Many might suggest that the President easily gave up on a fight he realized may not be worth fighting. It is all but virtually assured that Senator Kerry will be nominated for this position, which would bring us back to the question of whether Senator Scott Brown will run again," said Srini Sitaraman, an associate professor of political science at Clark University.
Downing is the son of the late Berkshire County District Attorney Gerard Downing, and worked for U.S. Reps. William Delahunt and Richard Neal before joining former U.S. Rep. John Olver's staff as an advisor on housing, budget, tax, homeland security and foreign policy issues for two years.
He won his first election for state senate in 2006.
Copyright State House News Service