Senator Edward Kennedy’s death marks the twilight of one of America’s most fabled political families, with no heirs to the Kennedy name poised to emerge with the same mix of gravitas, ambition and celebrity.
Kennedy, 77, one of the most effective lawmakers in US history and the brother of assassinated president John F. Kennedy, died late on Tuesday after battling brain cancer.
He died just weeks after his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics and was a leading advocate for the mentally disabled.
“There seems to be no one there to pick up the torch,” said Thomas Whalen, a professor of politics at Boston University.
“There doesn’t seem to be someone in the next generation to carry the load here. Ted Kennedy might be it, he might be the end of the line,” said Whalen, author of Kennedy versus Lodge: The 1952 Massachusetts Senate Race about his brother John’s first race for the Senate.
Kennedy’s cancer diagnosis and then his death have stirred speculation over who might succeed the third-longest serving US senator, and whether a new generation could emerge from under his shadow.
Many younger Kennedys are active in civic life but none on the scale of Ted Kennedy, last of four Kennedy brothers, including John, elected president in 1960 and assassinated in 1963; and Robert, a New York senator whose presidential bid ended with his assassination in 1968.
The eldest brother, Joseph Jr., was killed in World War Two.
Options are limited for another Kennedy to inherit the Senate seat held by the family for nearly five decades. Kennedy’s nephew, Joseph, — the eldest son of Robert Kennedy — is often cited as a possibility.
Under Massachusetts state law, a vacancy in the US Senate forces the Massachusetts governor to call a special election between 145 and 160 days after it becomes official.
Other Kennedys could also keep the legacy alive, although none project the stature of the white-haired “Lion of the Senate,” widely regarded as one of Washington’s most effective dealmakers and communicators with his speeches full of stirring Kennedy imagery, and a rumbling baritone voice.