PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Benjamin Downing could soon have an opportunity to join the "center of the debate" by bringing a fresh face and energy to U.S. Senate.
The senator, who was just elected to his fourth term, hasn't hidden that he wants to move up the in the political ranks. Last year, he weighed the possibility of running for the U.S. House. Now with what many are considering the imminent appointment of U.S. Sen. John Kerry as secretary of the state, Downing is prepared to mount a campaign in a special election for that seat.
If he decides to run.
"Why I am considering it is why I got into politics in the first place," the Pittsfield Democrat said on Thursday. "If you care about economic development, the center of the debate is in the U.S. Senate."
Downing is one of several Democrats reportedly exploring the possibility of running. U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Michael E. Capuano, and Edward J. Markey have all hinted at running for the nomination; Attorney General Martha Coakley has not ruled out a second try for the Senate.
There also has been fringe talk of two well-known names entering the race — Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy Jr. (who lives in Connecticut but owns a home at the Kennedy compound on the Cape) and actor and Oscar winner Ben Affleck, who's been involved with Democratic campaigns, including Elizabeth Warren's unseating of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
Who actually enters the race is on all of their minds. Downing is waiting to see who is planning to run and then developing and examining his campaign strategy to see if he has a "legitimate" shot at winning.
"Successful statewide races are not handed to people who are the next in line," Downing said, believing he can energize both the Democratic base and unenrolled voters.
Brown himself has signaled that he may resurface as the Republican candidate, noting in his farewell speech on the Senate floor that "victory and defeat is temporary." The special election — and the timing — would be similar oddly enough to the circumstances that propelled the still popular Brown into the Senate the last time around.
Downing and Brown served together in the state Senate, although Brown also served three terms in the House before moving up to the Senate two years before Downing. Downing, of Pittsfield, easily won his first election and has run unopposed his last three terms for the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin district, the largest district geographically.
The move would be a large jump for the 31-year-old but not one that hasn't been done before.
"While it is a significant step, it is one Scott Brown and Barack Obama took," Downing said. "I believe I can stand toe to toe with Scott Brown."
Downing knows how brutal campaigns for a national seat can be — he was recently part of the Warren campaign that defeated Brown — and he says he is ready for it.
"When it comes, I will be ready to take the step," Downing said, adding that he is ready to hit the ground running if he decides to make the "hard decision" of entering the race.