Rep. Edward Markey is quickly sewing up support that could position him as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in a prospective special election in Massachusetts.
Markey on Friday picked up the endorsements of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the senator he would succeed, John Kerry, who will give up the seat upon being confirmed as U.S. secretary of state.
The support for Markey could avoid a contentious Democratic primary and let him focus on defeating the Republican candidate, possibly Sen. Scott Brown, who last month lost his bid for a full six-year term to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
“It’s clear that there’s a full-court press to clear the field” among Democrats, said Mary Anne Marsh, a party consultant with the Dewey Square Group in Boston.
Marsh said the endorsements appear to be messages to dissuade other Democrats — including Markey’s House colleagues, Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch — from entering the race.
Capuano lost the Democratic primary in December 2009 for the nomination to succeed Kennedy, who died in August of that year. The winner, Attorney General Martha Coakley, lost a January 2010 special election to Brown.
“A nasty primary fight leaves little time for wounds to heal and campaign coffers to be rebuilt,” said Jeffrey Berry, who teaches politics at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. “Instead of forming a circular firing squad, Democrats are trying to do something sensible.”
Markey, first elected to the House in 1976, announced his candidacy Dec. 27 for the seat that Kerry will vacate if his fellow senators confirm his appointment by President Barack Obama as secretary of state.
“Massachusetts voters are facing a critical decision about whether we continue John Kerry’s tireless fight for the middle class or if we abdicate more power to the special interests,” Markey said in a statement in response to the endorsements. “We must not turn back now. That’s why I want to continue this fight for the values and priorities that will move our state and nation forward and carry on John Kerry’s legacy of leadership.”
Kerry supplied yesterday’s first endorsement, saying he was “excited to learn of and support” Markey’s candidacy.
“Ed’s one of the most experienced and capable legislators in the entire Congress and it would be an almost unprecedented occasion for such an accomplished legislator to join the Senate able to hit the ground running on every issue of importance to Massachusetts,” Kerry said in his statement.
The DSCC, which raises money for Senate Democratic candidates, echoed Kerry.
“At a time when the country needs real leadership that looks out for the middle class, Ed Markey always remembers where he came from and will continue the hard work needed to turn our economy around,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, the DSCC chairman, said in a statement.
Markey also received the backing of Kennedy’s widow, Victoria, who called him “the right person for the job” in a statement.
Obama nominated Kerry, the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, on Dec. 21 to succeed Hillary Clinton as the top U.S. diplomat. Upon Kerry’s confirmation and his resignation from the Senate, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint an interim successor until a special election takes place. State law calls for the vote to be held between 145 to 160 days following the vacancy.
Patrick has said he prefers an interim appointee who wouldn’t run in the special election. The governor followed that pattern in choosing Democrat Paul Kirk to fill the seat temporarily after Kennedy died.
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