Race for Kennedy seat

WASHINGTON - THE giant boots of Edward Kennedy wait to be filled in the Senate, where the health care reforms he once described as the 'cause of his life' might soon require every vote to pass.

There was no immediately apparent successor to Sen Kennedy, who was the third-longest-serving senator in US history thanks to almost 47 years of service during which he was an outspoken champion of liberal causes.

The governor of Massachusetts backed on Thursday a poignant plea made by Sen Kennedy just days before his death for an interim successor to be swiftly appointed.

'I'd like the legislature to take up the bill quickly and get it to my desk and I will sign it,' governor Deval Patrick told the Boston Globe in an interview.

With President Barack Obama's sweeping health reforms up for a Senate vote later this year, Sen Kennedy wanted to leave nothing to chance as he knew that every vote might count.

As the succession battle began, experts said there was no obvious candidate for a post the late US senator inherited in 1962 from his brother John F. Kennedy, who was by then in the White House.

'There's going to be an enormous battle among Democrats,' said Eugene Dionne, a political analyst from the Brookings Institution think tank. 'There's no obvious candidate. It's a state full of ambitious Democrats.'

Among the many names being bounced around is that of Joe Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while campaigning for the White House in 1968, five years after his elder brother JFK suffered a similar fate.

But neither Joe, not Sen Kennedy's widow 55-year-old Vicki is said to be interested in a Senate bid, meaning the race would be wide open.

'If somebody from the Kennedy family, Joe Kennedy, or his wife Vicki Kennedy want to run, there might be some sentimental feeling in their favour,' Dionne said. 'But she's saying she doesn't want to run. There's no one obvious.' -- AFP