updated 2/17/2004 8:28:27 AM ET 2004-02-17T13:28:27

Sen. John Kerry doesn’t plan to resign his Senate seat while he pursues the Democratic presidential nomination.

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Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Kerry, who has won 14 of the 16 Democratic primaries and caucuses to date, “will continue to fight for the issues important to the people of Massachusetts and all Americans” as he makes his bid for the White House.

Darrell West, a Brown University political science professor, said it would make sense for Kerry, who is serving his fourth term in the Senate, to resign.

“He doesn’t need the money or the aggravation, and he’s going to be spending most of his time campaigning,” West said. “It would help for him to not have to vote.”

At the same time, West said, Kerry could lose everything if he resigned his seat and then didn’t win the White House.

Replacement politics
The key concern for Kerry and the Democrats is that if he resigns — or even if he does not and goes on to win the White House — Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney would appoint an interim replacement.

Assuming he appointed a Republican, it would break the Democrats’ 26-year grip on the state’s two Senate seats. The last Republican senator from Massachusetts was Edward Brooke, who won election in 1966 and served two terms.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation were emphatically opposed to any notion of resignation.

“It would be dangerous to give the right wing controlling the United States Senate an extra vote,” said Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass. “There are many Senate votes that are very close.”

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said there is no more reason for Kerry to step down to run his campaign full time than there is for President Bush to resign to campaign.

Republicans were cautious, saying they were not ready to call for Kerry to step down.

But Dominic Ianno, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican party, found the idea of Kerry stepping down enticing.

“We’d have a Republican senator,” Ianno said.

Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said the governor hadn’t given the matter any thought.

“Our money’s on Bush,” she said.

Dole left Senate
In 1996, Sen. Bob Dole gave up his seat in early June before formally receiving the GOP nod to run against President Clinton.

Dole said he wanted to focus on an all-or-nothing election race and “leave behind all the trappings of power, all comfort and all security.”

But four years later, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut ran for re-election to his Senate seat while simultaneously running as the Democratic vice presidential candidate. That decision worried some state Democrats because if Lieberman had resigned, a Democrat could have run. But if he stayed and became vice president, Republican Gov. John Rowland would have appointed a GOP replacement.

Lieberman’s safety net worked for him. He lost the White House race, but kept his Senate seat.

Under Massachusetts law and the constitution, if a vacancy occurs Romney would appoint an interim senator, who would serve until the next state election in 2006. There would then be an election to fill the final two years of Kerry’s term, which ends in 2008. And in 2008 there would be an election for a full six-year term.

There is no mechanism to call for a special election.

While Democrats and Republicans insist there is little speculation so far on who would be the top contenders if a vacancy came up, a few names have surfaced.

On the Republican side, Romney cannot appoint himself, but he could resign and be appointed by the lieutenant governor.

Among Democrats, several House members would be near the top of any list, including Markey and Meehan, along with Reps. Barney Frank and William Delahunt.

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