Are Markey Supporters Pushing Out Other Democrats?

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There were some developments Friday in Massachusetts' likely race for U.S. Senate. The state's senior senator, John Kerry, whose nomination for secretary of state is expected to lead to a special election, is supporting the first declared candidate.

In a statement, Kerry said U.S. Rep. Ed Markey is "one of the most experienced and capable legislators in the entire Congress." This statement came shortly after U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas announced she would not be running, and a day after Markey declared his bid.

WBUR reporter Fred Thys spoke with WBUR's Steve Brown about what Friday's developments in the likely race for Kerry's Senate seat mean.

Steve Brown: It looks like the Democrats in Washington are lining up behind Markey...

Fred Thys: It appears so. First of all you have Kerry's statement that says he supports Markey's "decision to run." Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, has issued her own statement. She calls Markey "the best person to continue in the tradition of John Kerry". And the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Michael Bennett, of Colorado, also has a statement out. He says Markey "is exactly the kind of leader Massachusetts needs in the U.S. Senate".

Why is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee getting behind Markey?

They would typically look at the polls. They would not comment on whether they've been polling. We know of only two polls out there, one commissioned by Markey. That one may show he's doing well enough. The other poll is a public poll, the WBUR poll last week. And our poll, conducted by MassINC's Steve Koczela, shows Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch would do nearly as well as Markey in a race against Scott Brown. So I'm not sure what the DSCC is seeing in the polls, if anything.

Is the Washington Democratic establishment trying to repeat what it did last year with Elizabeth Warren?

That turned out to be an effective strategy, of course — rallying behind Warren early. But she had a national network of small donors who were eager to contribute to her campaign. And in Massachusetts, she was able to ignite the enthusiasm of a vast network of volunteers who got the vote out for her. I'm not sure if Markey is going to be able to repeat that.

Meanwhile, Tsongas says she's not running. Does that leave this race without a woman?


That's right. It appears that while the Washington Democrats are rallying behind Markey, back here in Massachusetts, we could end up with a race of nothing but men running for Kerry's seat. It's striking that Massachusetts could be reverting to its old habits after it finally elected a woman senator in Warren. As the only woman, Tsongas would have had the backing of Emily's List. She was also the first Massachusetts member of Congress to endorse Warren, more than a year before the election, so she was in good place to receive a potential endorsement from Warren, who is now the most prodigious fund-raiser in the U.S. Senate.

Does the fact that the forces in Washington seem to be rallying behind Markey make it harder for other potential candidates still mulling a run?

We'll have to see if Markey gets the backing of organized labor. That's something Lynch, of Boston, would be looking for. He dropped out of the 2010 Senate election when Martha Coakley garnered the support of most of the unions.

Capuano, of Somerville, is not easily scared. He issued a statement saying: "It seems that the big names of our party are trying to choose our nominee for us. When I became Mayor of Somerville, the establishment wasn't with me. When I became a Member of Congress, the establishment wasn't with me. If I make this run it will be the same way, from the streets up, not from the elite down."

And state Sen. Ben Downing, of Pittsfield, is getting married this weekend, and he's still planning to form an exploratory committee next week.

This program aired on December 28, 2012.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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