Who Will Replace John Kerry?

And for that matter, Deval Patrick? Massachusetts faces an impending leadership vacuum.

I pick you, random audience member, to replace me! (Photo via Wikimedia/Stlphotog)

In 2008, Massachusetts had one of the most impressive collection of political leaders in the country. Ted Kennedy had been in the U.S. Senate for 45 years and knew how to operate that chamber’s levers. John Kerry had finished licking his wounds after his 2004 loss in the presidential election and was a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Barney Frank had been verbally sparring in the U.S. House for 26 years and was serving as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Our former governor, Mitt Romney, was making a strong run in the Republican presidential primary. Deval Patrick was just into his first year as governor.

To refresh: A senior leader of the Senate, a former presidential candidate, a senior leader of the House, a promising presidential candidate, and a new governor. Power players.

This January, just five years later, every single one of them may be gone. Kennedy passed away. Kerry is looking like an increasingly likely pick for President Obama’s cabinet. Frank is retiring. Romney, after two bruising presidential races, is supposedly settling in California. Patrick may be tapped to lead the Department of Justice; even if not, he’s stepping down in 2014.

Who can we expect to potentially fill Kerry and Patrick’s offices? It’s still early, but here are the politicians receiving the most speculation:

Republicans for Senate:

Scott Brown: The leading contender. He’s still popular in the state, and will do better in a special election than in a presidential year. (See: 2010.) Plus, it’d be fun to see Warren and Brown try to place nice as the senior and junior senator.

Richard Tisei: Narrowly lost a congressional race against Rep. John Tierney, but as a moderate, gay Republican, he might run better statewide.

Bill Weld: The former governor, as the Globe notes, recently moved back to the state from New York. But he’s said he would defer to Brown.

Democrats for Senate:

Martha Coakley: Has rebuilt her reputation after her poor 2010 run against Brown, but is she really going to wade back into national politics?

Joe Kennedy III: He would be, as The Fix points out, a “fundraising juggernaut.” But he was also just elected to Congress and has told leaders that he’s not interested. JK3 knows that it’s too soon.

Reps. Ed Markey, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch: The Three Amigos of Ambitious Middle-Aged Congressmen. They all have the resume for the position. The trick? Distinguishing themselves.

Republicans for Governor:

Charlie Baker: The 2010 gubernatorial candidate is said to be interested in running again.

Democrats for Governor:

Steve Grossman: The treasurer is gearing up for the race.

Tim Murray: The lieutenant governor wants to ditch the qualifier.

This game is obviously interesting because we face two immediate political vacancies, but it takes on extra depth when you consider that for the first time in a long time, the state faces a real political vacuum, and whoever fills these two positions will be looking to fill it.