Deval Patrick pressed to name Barney Frank to Kerry seat

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BOSTON (AP) — Liberal groups have launched twin online petitions aimed at pressuring Gov. Deval Patrick to temporarily name former congressman Barney Frank to U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s seat if Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state.

Asked Thursday if the petitions will affect his decision, Patrick said that it wouldn’t and that everyone he’s spoken to about the possible interim appointment is well qualified.

“Look, if I made the list public, you’d probably have a whole bunch of petitions because they’re very, very able people,” he said.

Frank’s outspoken reputation has captured the imagination of liberal groups, however.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which helped raise money for Democrat Elizabeth Warren during her successful Senate campaign, has launched a new website and online petition.

The petition points to potential cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and says, “We can’t afford to have our other senator be lukewarm, undecided, or uncertain.”

“We need someone who we are 100 percent confident will fight right alongside (Warren),” the petition adds.

The website, affiliated with the liberal activist group, which also raised money for Warren, has posted a similar petition saying, “We can’t think of anyone who would do a better job over the next few months than Barney Frank.”

“Barney will take on conservative Republicans in Congress who want to cut Social Security and Medicare and play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States,” the petition says.

Frank, who opted not to run for re-election after a 32-year career in the U.S. House, has taken the unusual step of publicly lobbying for the interim post.

“I’m very well suited to do it,” Frank said last week. “You’re not going to have a long period to get acquainted with things.”

Patrick confirmed that he was considering Frank and believed he would make a “great interim senator,” but added that he has talked to other people about the position as well.

If Kerry’s nomination is confirmed, Patrick must appoint someone to fill Kerry’s seat until a special election is held. That special election would be scheduled for about five months after the Democrat’s resignation.

It would be the third Senate election in Massachusetts since 2010.

Patrick has said he won’t reveal his pick for interim senator until Kerry’s resignation is official. Kerry, who was nominated to the top diplomatic post by President Barack Obama, isn’t expected to run into serious opposition from his fellow senators during the confirmation process.

Others mentioned as possible interim senators include Michael Dukakis, the former governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, and Victoria Kennedy, widow of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Patrick has declined to confirm any other conversations he might be having with potential candidates, saying those conversations are confidential.

“I promise you the person I send will be a person of judgment … (with) a political sense of stewardship,” Patrick said Thursday.

He decided to confirm that he had spoken with Frank after the longtime Democratic lawmaker went public with his interest.

If appointed to the seat, Frank lists among his priorities cutting military spending, ending military operations in Afghanistan and encouraging “mainstream Republicans to break with the tea party.”

Patrick has made it clear that he planned to choose an interim senator who wasn’t interested in running in the special election. The winner of that race would serve out the remainder of Kerry’s term, which ends after the 2014 election.

Patrick also said Thursday that he likes the idea of a contested Democratic primary in the anticipated special Senate election and expects more Democratic candidates to enter the race.

So far, congressman Ed Markey is the only announced Democratic candidate. Other possible Democratic candidates include U.S. Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch and state Rep. Ben Downing.

Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is weighing a run on the Republican side.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.