Kerry, Democrats support Rep. Markey as Senate successor in Massachusetts

Rachel Rose Hartman

Democrats are working swiftly to line up behind Rep. Ed Markey as Massachusetts' next senator and avoid a potentially damaging Democratic primary next year in the race to succeed Sen. John Kerry.

Less than 24 hours after announcing his interest in Kerry's Senate seat late Thursday, Rep. Ed Markey received public support from Kerry himself, Victoria Kennedy, wife of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which steers Democratic Senate campaigns, in an outpouring of support designed to keep other would-be Democratic candidates from entering the race.

From a Kerry statement released Friday:

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.

Markey publicized Kerry's vote of support in an email to supporters, adding that “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."

The congressman in his email also highlighted an endorsement from Victoria Kennedy, who reportedly lauded Markey as the "best person to continue in the tradition of John Kerry to serve our Commonwealth in the United States Senate."

"I am proud to have her support in this important race for our state and nation’s future," Markey said.

But in perhaps the most telling announcement of the day, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Michael Bennet (D-Ohio) offered his support, signaling to Democratic Reps. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch, and other Democrats who had been eyeing the seat, that they cannot count on the committee's support.

President Barack Obama on Dec. 21 announced Kerry as his choice to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Kerry, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, must be confirmed by the Senate and then resign his seat before a special election is scheduled and an interim successor is chosen to fill the seat.

Democrats are eager to maintain party control of the seat, and an uncontested Democratic primary would remove one less headache for the party. Democrats lost control of the state's other Senate seat in 2010 when Republican Scott Brown won the seat formerly held by Kennedy.

Brown lost his bid for re-election this November to Democrat Elizabeth Warren but has hinted he plans to run for the Republican nomination to succeed Kerry and is expected be unchallenged.

Markey, 66, was first elected to the House in 1976 and is the dean of the Massachusetts delegation.