MEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — Democrat Edward Markey, who's served 37 years in the U.S. House, is preparing to make the leap to the Senate after winning Massachusetts' special election to fill the seat left vacant by John Kerry's resignation to become secretary of state.
While Markey is pledging to work to pass major efforts including an assault weapons ban and to spark a green energy revolution and boost job growth in Massachusetts, voters hoping for a political firebrand will likely be disappointed.
Throughout his career in Congress, Markey has taken a methodical, behind-the-scenes approach to lawmaking, typically leaving the limelight to others.
Given the relatively low-key campaign Markey waged during the past five months, there's little indication that he's ready to break out of that mold.
Speaking to reporters before greeting breakfast diners at a restaurant in a Boston suburb Wednesday morning, Markey called his win over Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez "gratifying." Markey captured 55 percent of the vote compared with 45 for Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL.
Markey credited the success to his positions on issues like gun control and abortion rights, arguing he was more in step with the majority of voters in Massachusetts.
"It was a tremendous victory. I know that it was about the issues. I know that it was about the differences that existed between me and my opponent," Markey said Wednesday.
Markey also benefited from a superior organizing effort in a state where Democrats hold every statewide office and every seat in Congress — and where Republican Scott Brown's surprise special Senate election win in 2010 still stings for Democratic loyalists.
During the campaign, Markey tapped into those worries, saying a win by Gomez would embolden Senate Republicans even as Gomez worked to distance himself from the national party on issues like gay marriage, guns and global warming.
But a more conciliatory Markey said Wednesday that he's ready to reach across the political aisle in the Senate.
"I've passed dozens of bills over the years, each one of them with a Republican," Markey said. "I look forward to working with Republicans in the Senate on issues we can agree on."
"The Senate needs to have people who want it to work," he added.
He also showed flexibility on some of his key issues.
Markey said that while he will continue to push for a federal ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips, he'd vote for a more modest bipartisan bill to expand required federal background checks to more gun buyers if it resurfaces. That bill was defeated in the Senate this year.
By jumping to the Senate, Markey also goes from minority party status to a member of the majority party, instantly strengthening his political clout. Markey said he's not sure what committees he will be assigned to.
He also goes from being the dean of the state's House delegation as its longest serving member to becoming the state's junior senator, though the state's senior senator, fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren, has served just six months. Markey said he looks forward to serving alongside Warren.
Markey's victory is also a win for President Barack Obama, who attended a rally for Markey during the campaign and who needs to retain a Democratic majority in the Senate.
In a statement Tuesday night, Obama called Markey a leader on issues like fighting carbon pollution, curbing gun violence and creating middle-class jobs.
He also thanked interim U.S. Sen. William "Mo" Cowan for filling the seat for the past five months and Kerry for his nearly three decades in the Senate.
"I'm confident Ed will help carry on that legacy," Obama said.
The timing of Markey's resignation from his House seat and his swearing-in to the Senate was not immediately clear.
His win has to be certified first, and a spokesman for Massachusetts state Secretary William Galvin said officials must wait 10 days for all overseas ballots, cast by military personnel and other residents living abroad, to be returned. The results of the election would then be certified.
Unofficial results suggest that only about 1.2 million voters cast ballots, marking the lowest voter participation in a U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts in modern times.
Under state law, a special election to fill Markey's House seat will be scheduled for 145-160 days after his resignation from that chamber.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.