Downing
Downing (Eagle file)

PITTSFIELD -- State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing said on Thursday that he would consider running for the U.S. Senate if John Kerry was named to a cabinet position by President Barack Obama.

The 31-year-old Pittsfield Democrat is one of several Massachusetts politicians that have been mentioned in Washington, D.C., media outlets as possible candidates for Kerry's seat should it become available.

Kerry's name has floated as a candidate for either secretary of state or defense. If he leaves the Senate for either position, the state would be required to hold a special election to elect Kerry's successor.

In a telephone interview, Downing said he hasn't decided whether to run or not to run.

"I haven't made any decisions one way or another, largely because there hasn't been any opening," Downing said.

"But if there was, I would consider it."

Downing declined to say why he would be interested in running for Kerry's seat.

"I think I'll save that for if there is something," Downing said. "It's all speculation at this point."

Downing is a former aide to Massachusetts representatives William Delahunt, Richard Neal and John Olver. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2006, and currently chairs the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee.

The Washington Post, in dropping names for potential Kerry successor candidates, said Downing is "likely to run for the seat if it comes open.


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"I'm not sure where it came from," Downing said, when asked why the Washington media would consider him a possible candidate for Kerry's seat.

Lee Harrison, the chairman of the Berkshire Brigades, the county's Democratic Party organization, said the brigades would back Downing if he decided to run, but characterized the move from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate as a "huge jump" especially given the timing.

If Kerry's seat is vacated, Gov. Deval Patrick would be responsible for scheduling the dates of the primary and special election. Under state law, the special election would have to be held within 160 days of the vacancy being declared.

"If the seat becomes available, there's very little time in a special election to raise the money and put an organization together," Harrison said. "Martha Coakley wasn't able to do it. Scott Brown was, but he had outside help."

Harrison said state Democrats are currently exhausted following the bruising U.S. Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown.

"Kerry would be a great secretary of defense or secretary of state for that matter, but just about everyone I know doesn't want to have a special election in a few months," Harrison said. "We're all fatigued."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.