Saturday January 12, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- State Sen. Ben Downing has decided against seeking the Democratic nomination to fill the U.S. Senate opening expected if John Kerry is confirmed as Secretary of State.

Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat, said last month he would consider a run in the expected special election to fill the vacancy, but on Friday he announced he won’t enter the race.

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Malden, has won the backing of many Democrats, including Kerry, former longtime U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, and Victoria Kennedy to replace the senator.

Downing said Friday he hasn’t yet considered who he’ll support in the primary election.

Downing said it is "a very big step up" to run a statewide race, "and if I am going to get in, I wanted to do it right."

That would include building a strong grass-roots organization and raising a significant amount of campaign cash, which he said would be difficult, especially considering the shortened time frame of a special election. The primary, for instance, would have to be held within 100 days of the Senate vacancy and the election within 160 days.

"It’s really a sprint," Downing said.

Downing’s decision still leaves U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch of Boston and Michael Capuano of Somerville as other possible challengers for the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is among those mentioned as possible challengers for the GOP nomination.

The special election would be scheduled by Gov. Deval Patrick and be similar to a special election in January 2010 following the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, in which Brown defeated state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee.

Brown subsequently was defeated in the Nov. 6, 2012, election by new U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In a press release Friday morning, Downing said he has spoken with family members, friends and colleagues about a possible run and found "the response was overwhelmingly positive" from a number of people.

He added, "I wish their faith in me was enough to sustain a campaign, but I know that every consideration -- especially financial -- must be made before a race of this type is undertaken.

"I am excited to continue representing the people of Western Massachusetts in the state Senate, and I look forward to taking an active role in the upcoming campaign to ensure that the next [U.S.] senator represents the values of Massachusetts," Downing said.

If Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state, Patrick would appoint an interim senator, and Frank has said he would like to be that person. A special election will be held to elect a senator to fill out Kerry’s term.

Frank said he isn’t interested in running for the seat but would like to help represent the state in any budget or spending debates, such as the recent "fiscal cliff" crisis, that arise before the special Senate election.