By Tom Mashberg

Sen. John F. Kerry promised last night to reach out to the Republican leadership in the Senate and to use his greater seniority to help guarantee a continuing flow of federal largesse to Massachusetts.

"When you're in the minority, seniority counts, and I'll now be in the top 30 in the Senate in terms of that," Kerry said. "We Democrats have been in the minority for the past two years as it is, and we've still managed to be very effective."

Kerry said he would likely become the third-ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, the second-ranking Democrat on the Commerce Committee and the top-ranking Democrat on the Subcommittees for International Operations and Small Business.

"All of those committees are pivotal for the Massachusetts economy, with hundreds of millions to spend in areas such as housing, high technology and financial services," Kerry said.

Kerry noted that in the previous Congress, the combined efforts of the Bay State delegation, which included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Reps. Gerry R. Studds (D-Cohasset), Peter Blute (R-Shrewsbury) and Peter G. Torkildsen (R-Danvers), helped deliver federal money for the Boston Harbor cleanup and the Quincy Shipyard, as well as for housing and high-technology contracts.

"Quite frankly, the way New England survives against the South in the Senate is through its seniority," Kerry added. "But as soon as I return next year, I intend to reach out to the Republican leadership of Trent Lott in a new spirit of bipartisanship."