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Kerry plans to await vote in Copley Square

TAMPA -- John F. Kerry's quest for the White House will probably end with an election-night event in Copley Square that could attract the huge crowds, security, and reporters reminiscent of the Democratic National Convention, while offering Bostonians a chance to witness history.

As many as 30,000 people are expected at the event Kerry hopes will be a victory party. He wants to stage the event outside the Boston Public Library on Copley Square, surrounded by the nearby Trinity Church and John Hancock Tower, aides said yesterday.

Seth Gitell, spokesman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, confirmed that Kerry's campaign had contacted the mayor about using the library facilities on election night.

''The request is pending for a myriad of reasons, including security and traffic," Gitell said.

Kerry campaign aides reportedly visited Boston in recent weeks to scout locations for an election night celebration, including the FleetCenter, the new Convention and Exhibition Center, and Fenway Park. Copley Square emerged as the top choice because of its proximity to commuter trains and subways, as well as hotel rooms for the thousands who are expected to work at or attend the event.

Four top aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Democratic presidential contender was insistent on finishing his campaign on Nov. 2 in his hometown, rather than heading to a key election battleground such as Pittsburgh, or Columbus, Ohio. He publicly announced his candidacy on Sept. 2, 2003, in Charleston, S.C., in an effort to gain an edge in the South Carolina primary and among Southern voters in the general election.

The Massachusetts senator is expected to return home at midday on Election Day, perhaps after a 24-hour blitz of final campaigning and a stop in Pennsylvania so his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, can vote in the state where she maintains her registration.

''We're still dotting the i's and crossing the t's before making an announcement," said one aide.

At the same time, Kerry has begun planning for a potential transition from candidate to president-elect. James A. Johnson, the Washington attorney and merchant banker who headed his search for a running mate, has been charged with planning for events should Kerry unseat President Bush.

Issues include how Kerry would deal with an expected deluge of applications from Massachusetts and elsewhere to work in his administration, and how and when he would screen and announce high-level Cabinet and ambassadorial appointments.

Johnson, who largely stayed out of public view during the vice presidential search, traveled to West Palm Beach on Sunday night for a private meeting at Kerry's oceanfront hotel with the candidate and his campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill.

Aides have said that Kerry would probably consider Johnson, the former head of the Fannie Mae home mortgage association, as treasury secretary should he be elected.

Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com.

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