Two situations had been holding up the decisions of potential candidates for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the Aug. 25 death of Edward Kennedy.
One was the persistent rumor, usually denied, that his widow, Vicki Reggie Kennedy, might run. By now the sense even among her strongest backers is that she will not.
The other was what Joseph Kennedy II planned to do. The son of the late Robert Kennedy, Joe Kennedy had served in Congress from 1987 until 1998, when he toyed with a gubernatorial campaign but ultimately decided to retire. Speculation that he planned to reenter the political arena spread following his emotional eulogy at his uncle's funeral. Many would-be senators held off announcing their plans in deference to Kennedy.
Not everyone, of course. State Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) launched her campaign last week, saying she was in the race no matter who else entered, and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) had taken out nominating papers with the intent to run.
But Joe Kennedy's decision yesterday made it clear that he's not going to stand in anyone's way:
Given all that my uncle accomplished, it was only natural to consider getting back involved in public office, and I appreciate all the calls of support and friendship that have poured in. After much consideration, I have decided that the best way for me to contribute to those causes is by continuing my work at Citizens Energy Corporation.
Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis writes that the Kennedy decision "rips the heart right out of the Senate race," and wishes he would have run:
Nobody in this race can come close to your uncle's expansive heart better than you. He was a proud, unapologetic, unrepentant believer in the FDR idea of government - being there for people in need.
We don't have that now. We've got measured pols . . . smart, articulate, media-seasoned, poll-driven . . . and incapable of leading with their heart, as your uncle did, and taught you to do.
So, Joe, you can take cover at Citizens Energy, and do well by doing good. You can do the Joe-4-Oil commercials and drive up like Santa Claus with an oil hose, but it's not the same. You've opted to sidestep your destiny. I can't say I blame you, but I just wish it wasn't so. This race needs your heart.
Now the focus will be on the Democrats who sat back awaiting the word from Joe K. They include Reps. Michael Capuano, John Tierney & Edward Markey and former congressman Martin Meehan.
On the GOP side, one prominent Republican took her name out of consideration: former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. State Sen. Scott Brown remains the likely Republican candidate, though other names have been mentioned, including former Bush White House chief of staff Andrew Card and ex-U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.
Primaries: Dec. 8. General election: Jan. 19.