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Former Dem. chairman Paul Kirk to temporarily replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy

BOSTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the Democrat selected to temporarily replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy is a 'distinguished leader' and an excellent choice to carry on Kennedy's work.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval (deh-VAHL) Patrick named former Democratic Party chairman Paul Kirk to fill the seat. Kirk will serve in the post until a special election in January.

His appointment gives Obama a critical 60th U.S. Senate vote he needs to pass a health care overhaul.

Kirk is a Kennedy family friend who served on the late senator's staff for eight years and is chairman of the JFK Library Foundation.

Caroline Kennedy, the senator's niece, called Kirk "a citizen-patriot" and a great friend.

Kennedy's family says he would have been pleased with the appointment.

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