Massachusetts Democrats eye possible Kennedy/Markey face-off

Kennedy has confirmed he’s eyeing the seat held by Markey.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy is planning to attend two Labor Day breakfasts Monday — one in West Boylston and another in Boston — all of which would be unremarkable if not for Kennedy dangling the possibility of challenging fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in next year’s Democratic Senate primary.

Kennedy has confirmed he’s eyeing the seat held by Markey, telling reporters this week that “I’ve got new ideas and a new approach and if I get into this race, that’s what this race will be about.”

Kennedy has also gone as far as filing a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, but has yet to officially jump into the race, or even give himself a hard deadline, saying the decision will take as long as it takes.

“It depends on me getting comfortable with the decision one way or another and I don’t intend to prolong that any longer than is necessary,” Kennedy said when pressed by reporters this week, adding “the sooner the better.”

Which means every public appearance by the 38-year-old congressman — including the two Labor Day events — will be dogged by questions about whether he will try to oust the 73-year-old Markey next year.

Markey has been pushing back hard against the possible challenge, releasing a video of an endorsement of his candidacy by fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, herself a candidate for president, and a list of 116 current Massachusetts state senators and representatives Markey said have endorsed his reelection bid, including Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, both Democrats.

“I am humbled to have the support of so many friends and colleagues across Massachusetts for re-election,” Markey said in a statement.

Markey has also stepped up his campaigning, this week attending a Democratic delegate dinner in Medford. Markey has said he’s running for re-election no matter who else gets into the race. He’s seeking a second full term in the Senate after spending decades representing the state in Congress.

Still, Markey would face a daunting challenger in Kennedy, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy who also served in the U.S. Senate.

Nearly 60 years after Kennedy’s great-uncle John F. Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election, the name still carries political heft in Massachusetts, due in no small part to the 47 years that Kennedy’s other great-uncle, Ted Kennedy, represented Massachusetts in the Senate. Joe Kennedy’s father also served in the U.S. House.

Despite the weight of that political dynasty, Kennedy offered few details about the “new ideas” he would bring to the race when speaking to reporters this week. He also declined to criticize Markey directly, calling him “a good man.”

Kennedy may be looking at some more recent Massachusetts political history, none of which involves his freighted surname.

Last year, Ayanna Pressley successfully ousted then incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in a Democratic primary, going on to become the state’s first black women elected to Congress. Several years earlier, Marine veteran Seth Moulton also ousted another incumbent member of Congress, former U.S. Rep. John Tierney — in the 2014 Democratic primary.

In a state that has placed a political value on Democrats waiting their turn, the success of Tierney and Pressley demonstrated that insurgent campaigns can succeed.

Although Kennedy said that Pressley’s win isn’t a part of his deliberations, it has helped shake up the way some think about how Democratic politics can shift in a state where Democrats hold every seat in the state’s congressional delegation and overwhelming majorities in the Massachusetts House and Senate.

Both Pressley and Moulton have yet to say who they would back if Kennedy decides to challenge Markey.

Markey is already facing two, lesser-known candidates — Shannon Liss-Riordan, a workers’ rights lawyer, and Steve Pemberton, a former senior executive at Walgreens.


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