BOSTON — Massachusetts voters weary from one of the nation's costliest and most divisive U.S. Senate races are all but certain to find themselves thrown back into another tumultuous election now that President Barack Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state.
If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Democrat Kerry would have to resign the seat he has held for nearly three decades, meaning a special election that will be the state's third Senate contest since 2010.
Jockeying already is well under way. The big question is whether Republican Sen. Scott Brown will go for the seat after losing his last month to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Brown kept the door wide open to another run during a farewell address on the Senate floor, declaring that both victory and defeat are "temporary" things. "Depending on what happens, and where we go, all of us, we may obviously meet again."
Brown would be a formidable candidate. He has a statewide political organization and more than $400,000 left in his campaign account. He remains popular and demonstrated an ability to raise millions of dollars in campaign donations. But he would still have to contend with all the hurdles facing any Republican in Massachusetts.
Should Brown opt out, former Gov. William Weld, former gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker and Richard Tisei, who lost a narrow race to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Tierney, are among the Republicans waiting in the wings for a possible run.
Democrats don't have a clear front-runner, given that Gov. Deval Patrick doesn't plan to break his pledge to serve out the last two years of his term.
Patrick still could play a pivotal role. He could use his sway in the party to clear what looks like a potentially crowded Democratic field. His backing of Warren was seen as giving her a critical edge by helping energize Democratic voters. On Friday, however, he said he'd probably not endorse anyone in a Democratic primary.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost to Brown in the 2010 special election, pulled her name out of contention on Friday.
Several Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation have said they would seriously consider running, including Reps. Michael Capuano, Edward Markey, Stephen Lynch, and Niki Tsongas. Most of those House members would begin a campaign with a financial edge. Markey has one of the largest war chests with more than $3.1 million. Capuano has nearly half a million dollars in his account, while Lynch has more than $740,000. Tsongas has about $166,000.
But all would have to work quickly to expand their appeal outside of their home districts.
Others mentioned by Democratic insiders as potential candidates are U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Ted Kennedy Jr., a son of the late senator.