Mass. gov picks former DNC chief Kirk to replace Kennedy

BOSTON (AP) — The governor of Massachusetts has picked former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. to temporarily replace the late Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate, according to Democratic aides briefed on the decision.

The appointment by Gov. Deval Patrick will let Kirk, who was close friends with the senator, serve in the post until voters pick a permanent replacement in a Jan. 19 special election. It also gives President Barack Obama a critical 60th U.S. Senate vote he needs to pass his top legislative priority, a health care overhaul.

"He is intimately knowledgeable and supportive of the work that Sen. Kennedy was doing," said one of the aides, who, like the others, requested anonymity in advance of the official announcement. "He can start right away on that work. It's an opportunity in a short period of time to try to complete some of the work Sen. Kennedy has been working his whole life on."

Kirk, 71, is a Boston attorney who also has been a registered lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies. He sits on the board of Hartford Financial Services, known colloquially as "The Hartford." It sells life and property insurance.

Early in his career, he spent eight years on the senator's staff. He is chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's board of directors and was master of ceremonies last month for a memorial service the evening before Kennedy's funeral.

The Massachusetts Legislature laid the groundwork Wednesday for announcement, when, after a contentious debate and a whirl of parliamentary maneuvering, it approved a bill allowing the governor to make an interim appointment.

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