By Kennedy Maize (@kennedymaize)

Washington, D.C., 2 January 2013 – It came as no surprise when, shortly after Christmas, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said she will step down sometime this month. Jackson, a controversial and hard-charging but politically adept EPA chief, will return to her New Jersey home, where she may run for office, or make a run at becoming the new president of Princeton University.

Who will succeed her? A number of names have surfaced, including mentions in this blog. My bet is on Bob Perciasepe, currently the number 2 at EPA. My reasoning is that he’s well-known in Washington and in Congress, has lots of experience, and is an entirely safe choice. His nomination likely would cause few political waves and the White House is not looking for a fight on relatively low-level nominations.

Bob Perciasepe

Perciasepe worked in the Clinton administration EPA on water and air issues, was a top official at the National Audubon Society, an environmental group not viewed as extreme, and served key roles in the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland. He will also have a step up for the job: he will take over when Jackson leaves, expected sometime around the State of the Union address later this month. There has also been public speculation about making Perciasepe a recess appointment, avoiding a Senate confirmation.

In Congress, there is growing hoopla about who will replace Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who Obama is naming Secretary of State. After decades of stability, the Bay State delegation to the U.S. Senate has seen turnover and turmoil in recent years, starting with the deal of Sen. Edward Kennedy in August 2009. Republican Scott Brown won an upset contest over Democratic attorney general Martha Coakley in a special January 2010 election. Then Democrat Elizabeth Warren knocked off Brown in the general election last year as Obama swept to reelection. Now Warren, a freshman, will become the state’s senior senator with Kerry’s State Department appointment.

Brown will almost certainly be the GOP nominee for the vacant Kerry seat, while several Democrats are angling for the nomination. The most likely Democrat to oppose Brown in a special election this year is long-time House member and energy gadfly Ed Markey. Markey has announced he will run for the nomination and Kerry had endorsed him, as has Vicki Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s widow. The Washington Post reports Markey is financially ready for a race, with $3.1 million in his campaign coffers.

Markey, 66, is the dean of the Massachusetts House delegation, first elected in 1976. Before he ran for the House of Representatives, he was a young Massachusetts legislator, elected to the state House of Representatives in 1973 at age 27. In 1976, he won a special election to fill a seat when a veteran Democratic member of the U.S. House, Torbert Macdonald, died in office. As a state legislator and in the House, he battled regularly (and unsuccessfully) against construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in nearby New Hampshire. He has been the most persistent and prominent anti-nuclear legislator in the U.S. Congress for decades.

Ed Markey

Markey could get a head start on the race if Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appoints him to fill the vacant Kerry seat. Under a 2009 state law, Patrick can appoint a person to serve in the seat until a special election is held between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy is created. Patrick has said he’d like to be able to fill the seat until the regularly-schedule general election for that slot. In the case of the Kerry seat, that would be 2014.