Kennedy fill-in opposed; T&G surveys Central Mass. pols.

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Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - Proponents engaged in a last-minute push for a bill to allow the governor to make an interim appointment to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy are running into stiff opposition among Democrats and Republicans from Central Massachusetts, according to a Telegram & Gazette poll of lawmakers.

While House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, D-Winthrop, and Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, have failed for weeks to take a clear position on the proposal, opposition has crystallized to a point where passage of the legislation, which was one of the last requests by Mr. Kennedy before his death last month, is in doubt.

House members are expecting to vote tomorrow on the change.

Advocates said the interim appointment is needed to restore the Democrat's 60-vote majority in the U.S. Senate which prevents Republicans from blocking legislation and have claimed the state could miss out on representation on major issues facing the Senate for the remainder of this year.

Critics have called the proposed change politically motivated and hypocritical in light of the rejection of a similar change sought by Republicans five years ago, when it was a Republican governor who would have made the interim appointment.

While President Barack Obama this week asked people in Massachusetts to call lawmakers to offer support for the measure, the bill also is being pushed in radio ads that began airing yesterday that are paid for by MassVote, a group arguing that the state needs two senators to vote on vital issues in the coming months.

A poll of Central Massachusetts lawmakers found many opposed, a number on the fence, and a clear minority saying that they would outright favor a bill that would allow the governor to make an interim appointment to the Senate until a special election is held Jan. 19. The winner of the special election would serve the remaining three years of Mr. Kennedy's senate term.

Ten state representatives from Central Massachusetts said they object to the proposal and would vote against it if it comes to the House floor and only two said they would vote for the bill. Three said they are undecided despite weeks of discussion of the measure.Four state representatives did not respond to a Telegram & Gazette survey.

The measure is also dividing the Central Massachusetts delegation in the state Senate.

State Sens. Jennifer L. Flanagan, D-Leominster, Michael O. Mooore, D-Millbury, and Richard T. Moore...

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