Barney Frank with senators Nancy Pelosi, right, and Steny Hoyer, left, in 2008. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta.)
Governor Deval Patrick is deciding who will be the next senator from Massachusetts, assuming that John Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state. No one else has any official say in the decision, but many liberal activists are betting they can push Patrick online.
Over 32,000 people have now backed a petition urging Patrick to nominate Barney Frank, the recently retired liberal firebrand, as a temporary replacement. The effort is organized by the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, which also made a large early push for Elizabeth Warren, recruiting about 339,000 small donors for the professor-turned-pol.
“Our email to our members came from someone who fought really hard in Massachusetts for Warren,” said PCCC spokesman Neil Sroka, referring to Wellesley resident Cynthia Curtis. These activists want to ensure "they have a partner in the Senate over the next few months of crucial fights,” Sroka told The Nation, stressing that the net campaign had political power because it was comprised of “the very folks that worked their heart out to elect Elizabeth Warren.”
Is this actually an effective way to push an incumbent governor, who can pick any loyalist he wants?
Patrick has been walking a careful line, praising the online activism while saying that it has no actual impact on his final decision. (He told reporters the petition was “fantastic,” but also that it had no effect on him.)
Without public pressure, governors often pick former aides or allies to fill temporary vacancies (rather than politicians who could be seen as peers or rivals). That’s what happened in recent cases in Delaware, Florida and West Virginia. Patrick has the distinction of appointing his second temporary senator here; he tapped Paul Kirk after Senator Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009. That selection offers few clues into Patrick’s mindset, however, because Kirk was a former Kennedy aide and the “consensus choice” of his family, as The Washington Post reported.