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Healey calls for Kerry to resign

As part of a coordinated attack by the Bush campaign, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey called yesterday for US Senator John F. Kerry to resign immediately, saying that he had missed so many roll call votes in the Senate that he wasn't representing the Commonwealth in the Senate.

Healey, Bush's campaign co-chairwoman in Massachusetts, accused Kerry of having abandoned his duties in the Senate by missing 87 percent of the roll calls this year and 64 percent last year because he was campaigning for the presidency.

''John Kerry has left the people of Massachusetts underrepresented in one of the highest lawmaking bodies in the nation," said Healey, speaking outside the governor's State House office. An immediate Kerry resignation would clear the way for Governor Mitt Romney to appoint a Republican to the seat and bolster GOP strength in the Senate, where the Republicans rule by a razor-thin majority.

Kerry brushed aside the Republican attack, saying that his absenteeism in the Senate is a necessary part of his presidential campaign effort, which is aimed at ''serving the citizens of Massachusetts and the country in the proposals I've laid out."

''I'm running to provide responsible leadership, and I intend to continue to do that," said Kerry, who spoke to reporters at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport in Covington, Ky.

Added Kerry campaign press secretary, Michael Meehan: ''Massachusetts Republicans have tried for decades to defeat John Kerry, and that has failed. Now they hope and pray that John Kerry will quit. Well, that won't work either. Elections work best when the people do the electing, not the politicians."

The Healey attack was followed later in the day by former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole's call for Kerry to resign.

The two events appeared to be a coordinated Republican counter-offensive just hours before a legislative committee on Beacon Hill began to consider a bill that would prevent Romney from filling Kerry's vacated Senate seat if he wins the presidency.

The legislation has drawn the keen interest of both national political parties. Massachusetts Democratic legislators are pushing the bill, which would call for a special election next spring if Kerry wins the presidency; several state Democrats in Congress are considering a run for the seat if it becomes vacant.

In calling for Kerry to resign, Healey became the public voice for national Republicans and Bush campaign officials who have been privately grumbling for months that the Massachusetts senator should be pressured -- by pundits, media columnists, and perhaps members of his own party -- to step down because of his nearly total absence from the Senate chambers since he launched his presidential bid last September.

Bush campaign officials said yesterday that they had shared information on Kerry's missed votes with Romney's office this spring and that there was general agreement that Kerry was politically vulnerable on the matter. Yet the Bush campaign aides insisted that they did not pressure Healey or the governor to call personally for Kerry's resignation.   Continued...

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