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Vicki Reggie Kennedy: lawyer, widow, next U.S. senator from Massachusetts?

August 31, 2009 |  9:18 am

Vicki Kennedy blows farewell kiss to her husband Ted Kennedy at his funeral Aug. 29, 2009

Time Magazine has called her “The Woman Who Saved Ted.”

Now, though she has said she is not interested, pressure is mounting on Victoria Reggie Kennedy to save his agenda -- serving as interim senator from Massachusetts until January when a special election is planned to fill the seat held by her husband, the late Edward Kennedy.

 Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd, one of Kennedy’s closest friends in the Senate, said on Sunday that "whatever Vicki wants to do, I'm in her corner. She brings talent and ability to it, and to fill that spot I think is something the people of Massachusetts would welcome. We could certainly use her in the Senate."

The marriage of Ted Kennedy and Vicki Reggie in 1992 was a union of two political dynasties, the Irish Catholic Kennedys and the Lebanese Catholic Reggies.

Vicki’s family hailed from Crowley, La., where her father, Edmund, was a longtime judge, banker and political insider and her mother, Doris, was a former Democratic National committeewoman – and the only member of the Louisiana delegation to cast a vote for Teddy Kennedy at the 1980 convention.

Many credit Vicki with steadying Ted Kennedy politically and personally and more recently, with organizing his treatment for brain cancer. “It was as if the good Lord had sent her,” former Sen. John Warner, a close friend of Kennedy’s, told Politico.com.

Less known is that she was also a political confidant – critical in his 1994 reelection against a 47-year-old multimillionaire named Mitt Romney. Ted Kennedy was facing a well-funded, viable opponent. Things looked grim.

Vicki Kennedy, a corporate lawyer, was suspicious of Romney's claims that he had created a lot of jobs as a venture capitalist and urged the campaign to investigate the more likely outcome in takeovers: mass layoffs. The resulting ads turned the race around.

In his last days, Ted Kennedy urged the Massachusetts Legislature to change the state’s law so that a caretaker senator could serve in Washington, a Democrat who could help President Obama enact healthcare reform. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has signaled his support for the idea, and the Democratic-majority legislature shows every sign of going along too.

As for Mrs. Kennedy, she has eschewed the political spotlight – until now, when political insiders such as Utah's Orrin Hatch are urging her to reconsider.

"I think Vicki ought to be considered,” Hatch said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “She’s a very brilliant lawyer. She’s a very solid individual. She certainly made a difference in Ted’s life, let me tell you. And I have nothing but great respect for her.”

 If she does serve, Vicki Reggie Kennedy might bring a needed sense of irony to the job.

 In recalling her courtship with Ted Kennedy, who was 22 years her senior, Vicki Kennedy told biographer Adam Clymer that the senator mentioned his low approval ratings – then in the mid-40s -- over dinner one night. Her reply: “Oh, wow, I’ve never gone out with anybody whose approval rating wasn’t at least 48.”

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Reuters

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