By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
---- — MEDFORD — Fresh off his victory Tuesday, Senator-elect Edward Markey said he hoped to revive the gun control debate in Congress after 20 years of pressing for measures like a ban on assault weapons, but avoided any direct discussion of the re-election campaign he will have to mount over the next 16 months.
Markey prevailed over Republican Gabriel Gomez in a special election for U.S. Senate, winning by a 10 percentage point margin, though voters on the steamy summer day set records for the low number of ballots cast in the statewide election. The vast majority of eligible voters took a pass on the election.
“I feel great. It was a tremendous victory and I know that it was about the issues. I know it was about the differences that existed between me and my opponent, but it’s very gratifying and I’m excited to be able to represent the people of Massachusetts in the United States Senate,” Markey said.
Markey visited Dempsey’s where he greeted voters at one of his favorite breakfast spots near his home in Malden. Medford state Rep. Paul Donato was there to meet him. Though he planned to return to Washington in afternoon to attend to House business, Markey said he did not think he would be sworn into the Senate until after the 4th of July.
His victory is less than a day old, but thoughts are already turning to the expected re-election effort the Democrat would have to mount next year, when voters will decide who will hold the Senate seat for a full six-year term.
Markey repeatedly declined opportunities during a 12-minute conversation with reporters to specify that he would seek re-election, instead saying he was focused now on working for the people of Massachusetts.
“The best way to convince people that you deserve to serve them from the state of Massachusetts is to go down and do the work to make sure you’re fighting for the things that their families care about,” he said.
Markey also said he had no plans to endorse a Democrat in the looming special election to take his place in Congress, which has so far drawn interest from at least four members of the Legislature and a county sheriff.
Before Tuesday’s election, former Sen. Scott Brown said on television that he believed he could beat Markey, but the senator-elect would not say Wednesday whether he felt he could beat Brown should the Republican decide to challenge him in 2014.
He also declined to speculate on whether the significant, but not overwhelming 10-point margin with which he won would embolden Republicans in next year’s election cycle, when at least a million more voters could be cast.
“I have no way of getting inside the internal workings of the cerebral mechanisms of the people in the other party,” Markey said.
With Markey headed to the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority, Springfield Democrat Rep. Richard Neal will take over as dean of the Massachusetts House delegation. Markey said Neal will make a “great” dean.
Asked his priorities, Markey ticked off a ban on assault weapons, “unleashing a green energy revolution” and helping to pass a transportation bill that can put Bay State citizens to work building roads, bridges and tunnels.
Though Markey said he would have supported the Manchin-Toomey expansion of background checks for gun purchases that failed in the Senate, he said it didn’t go far enough. “I realize that it’s not easy. It’s going to take an ongoing effort over some time, but I am not going to give up on the issue. I have been working on that issue for over 20 years and I am going to continue to do so until we have ultimate success,” Markey said.
He also said he looked forward to working with Republican senators on issues where compromise is possible, pointing out that he recently worked across the aisle to help pass an amendment keeping knives on the restricted items list for air travel.
“I think the Senate needs to have more people who want it to work to pass legislation that helps all of the people of Massachusetts and our entire country,” Markey said.
After nearly 37 years of experience in Congress, Markey will soon go by the title of junior senator from Massachusetts. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was sworn into the U.S. Senate just five months ago. Asked about being the understudy to Warren, Markey smiled.
“It’s an honor to be able to go down to serve with the extraordinary Elizabeth Warren. I’m looking forward to being a partner with her representing the state,” he said.