Meet the new senator

MEET THE NEW SENATOR…. This morning, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), acting on a new law approved this week by the state legislature, appointed Paul G. Kirk Jr. to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by Ted Kennedy’s death a month ago.

Patrick’s decision reflects the expressed wishes of the Kennedy family. Indeed, there were reports this week that Victoria Kennedy, Edward Kennedy Jr., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy all encouraged the governor to select Kirk for the seat.

Kirk’s ties to Ted Kennedy were strong and extended back many years. The newly-appointed senator served as a close aide to Kennedy in the 1970s, and became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the late 1980s. Kirk, who is 71, is currently serving as the the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation board of directors.

In the 100-seat body, Kirk will be the sixth appointed senator, joining Sens. George Lemieux (R-Fla.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

The NYT noted this morning, “Democrats in Washington and Massachusetts expressed enthusiasm for his candidacy, saying Mr. Kirk was familiar enough with Capitol Hill and Mr. Kennedy’s priorities to seamlessly pick up where the senator left off.”

It’s a safe, smart pick, adding a seasoned voice to the Senate who, while lacking Kennedy’s obvious influence, will vote as his old friend would have if he were still serving.

Kirk, who expects to be sworn in tomorrow, will remain in the Senate until January. Massachusetts will hold a special election on Jan. 19, at which point voters will elect a senator to fill the remaining years on Kennedy’s term. Kirk made clear this morning that he will not be a candidate in that race.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.