Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
After nearly two weeks of weighing a run, US Representative Edward J. Markey announced today that he will not seek the Senate seat left open by the death of Edward M. Kennedy, a decision that removes a major player from the Democratic primary field.
Markey, the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, said he concluded that his seniority in the House -- he is the eighth most senior member -- is all the more important now that Kennedy has died. He said that as a Senate newcomer, he would lack the influence he now has to help the state and advance legislation on a host of issues that he champions, from climate change to energy independence.
''I will have more clout for Massachusetts in the House than as a freshman in the Senate,'' said Markey, a Malden Democrat who has served in Congress since 1976. ''That was at the heart of my decision.''
Markey's announcement is a major political development in the Democratic primary race for the special election. The primary will be held Dec. 8, and the general election is Jan. 19.
Though potential candidates from both parties are still weighing campaigns, some observers say Markey's decision could be last big one on the Democratic side.
''His leaving now clarifies and defines the final field,'' said Michael Goldman, a veteran Democratic consultant.
The most defining development came earlier this week, when former US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II -- the only Kennedy family member to thus far seriously look at the race -- decided not seek his uncle's Senate seat.
Markey, with $3 million in his political account and the ability to raise millions more, would have been a formidable contender. Only two other Massachusetts House members have said they are running: Michael Capuano of Somerville and Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston. Another House member, John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat, is also eyeing the race.
The other major Democratic candidate at this point is Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was the first to declare. As the only woman in the race and the one candidate to have run statewide, Coakley may have an early advantage. She holds a substantial lead in some early polling.
But Coakley has yet to show whether she can raise the millions of dollars needed to compete. Capuano, with $1.2 million in his account, and Lynch, with $1.4 million, will hit the ground running in terms of financing.
Coakley, who said she would raise $1 million by end of this month, won the endorsement Wednesday of Emily's List, the powerful national fund-raising organization that supports female candidates who support abortion rights. She has also assembled an experienced finance team. But she cannot legally tap her state campaign account to run for federal office, and has only begun to raise money for the Senate race.
The Republican field is still taking shape. State Senator Scott Brown of Wrentham is considering a run for the GOP nomination. Andrew Card, a former state representative who served as President George W. Bush's chief of staff, will not seek the Senate seat, a close associate said.
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