By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
---- — BOSTON — Before anyone else can enter an election that hasn’t even been announced yet, Democrats in both Massachusetts and Washington yesterday began getting behind U.S. Rep. Edward Markey’s fledgling candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
A flurry of endorsements backing the 18-term House member appeared to be an attempt to clear the field of challenges from both inside and outside the political establishment and avoid a fractious primary that could damage the party’s chances of retaining the seat, particularly if U.S. Sen. Scott Brown decides to run again.
A day after Markey announced that he would run to replace U.S. Sen. John Kerry provided the senior senator is confirmed as secretary of state, both Kerry and Vicki Kennedy threw their support behind Markey. Another possible candidate, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, said she would not mount a Senate campaign.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado also endorsed Markey.
Kerry offered glowing praise for Markey in a statement that stopped just short of endorsing the Congressman and made mention of the sensitivity around Kerry’s involvement in the race to succeed him.
“While I began last week to formally step out of politics and it’s very important that I respect the apolitical nature of the post I hope to soon occupy, as Massachusetts’ senior senator today and as a colleague of Ed Markey’s for 28 years, I’m excited to learn of and support his decision to run for the United States Senate,” Kerry said.
“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 continued.
The difference between supporting Markey’s “decision to run” and a full-throated endorsement may be minor. A Kerry aide said Kerry would be voting for Markey.
Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy who is rumored to be a possible interim appointee to the Senate until a special election can be held, also threw her support behind Markey, calling him “the best person to continue in the tradition of John Kerry.”
“Ed is the dean of the Massachusetts delegation and has been an exceptional Congressman for his District. He’s respected nationally for his energetic leadership on issues relating to the environment, energy and technology,” Kennedy said in a statement circulated shortly after Kerry’s.
Tsongas, of Lowell, considered her own campaign to follow in the footsteps of her late husband, Paul Tsongas, but announced yesterday she would not seek the seat after being elected to her third full term in November.