Few people could fill the void left by the death of longtime Senator Ted Kennedy, but Paul Kirk Jr. is the one who will try. On Sept. 24, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick tapped Kirk, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Kennedy's death. Thought to be the Kennedy family's pick, Kirk was once an aide to the Democratic Senator, and currently serves as the chairman of John F. Kennedy's presidential library. "Paul Kirk is a distinguished leader whose long collaboration with Senator Kennedy makes him an excellent interim choice to carry on [Kennedy's] work until the voters make their choice in January," President Barack Obama said after Patrick announced the selection at a press conference at the State House in Boston.
The appointment was possible only because the Massachusetts State Senate voted on Sept. 22 to give Patrick the authority to immediately select a replacement Senator, fulfilling a wish of the dying Kennedy, so that Senate Democrats would not lose a crucial vote during the health-care-reform debate. Patrick has stated that he plans to secure a promise that any replacement will not run for the seat in the Jan. 19 special election. Until then, Kirk will serve as a ready vote for any health-care legislation, likely maintaining Kennedy's existing Senate staff.
Is 71 years old. Married with no children. Lives in Marstons Mills, Mass.
Graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in 1960 and Harvard Law School in 1964. Admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1965.
Assistant to Senator Kennedy from 1969 to 1977.
Partner in the Boston law firm of Sullivan & Worcester LLP from 1977 to 1990.
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1985 to 1989.
Co-founded the Commission on Presidential Debates in 1987, which works to secure and host debates among the presidential candidates. Currently is co-chairman of the group.
Engineered a coalition of groups that successfully prevented the New England Patriots from moving their stadium from Foxboro, Mass., to Hartford, Conn., in the late 1990s.
Chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs from 1992 to 2001. The NDI is a think tank that works to promote democracy abroad.
Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
A member of the board of directors at the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.
Runs a Boston-area business consulting firm, Kirk & Associates.
A trustee of Stonehill College, a small Catholic college near Boston.
"I like football, but professional football I watch on television. I go to the Harvard College games. I go to some high school games from time to time ... frankly, I enjoy college sports more than professional sports."
Explaining in 1999 why he had never attended a Patriots game, despite engineering a deal to keep the team in Massachusetts (Providence Journal)
"It was more like a joint press conference."
Criticizing the panel format of the presidential debates in the 1992 election (New York Times)
"Ted Kennedy was fun. He loved to laugh, and he loved to make us laugh."
Eulogizing the late Senator during his Aug. 28 memorial service (USA Today)
"In Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democrats have found themselves a national chairman better than they know and maybe better than they deserve. If character and ability count for anything in the world of politics ... the Democratic Party is in good hands."
David Broder, in a 1985 Op-Ed (Washington Post)
"Paul Kirk is his own man."
Bruce Nelson, chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, responding to criticism that Kirk would be a puppet for Kennedy if made chairman of the DNC (Toledo Blade)
"Paul was my dad's most loyal guy. My dad thought the world of Paul. I think the world of Paul."
Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, Ted Kennedy's youngest son, on Sept. 23 (CQPolitics)
"There is no question that Paul Kirk will continue to do the work Ted Kennedy would have done if he were here. He's not going to be Ted Kennedy, but he certainly will vote like him and the office will operate the way it would have under Kennedy."
Mary Anne Marsh, Boston Democratic consultant, on Sept. 23 (Politico)