Ed Markey: ‘I do my best’

Less than a month since the midterm elections, speculation is mounting that the Massachusetts senator could face a primary challenge in 2020.

Sen. Ed Markey pauses for an answer from NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock during a hearing on gas pipeline safety in the Merrimack Valley, Monday in Lawrence. Winslow Townson / AP

If you thought it was too soon for prognosticating about the 2020 presidential campaign, don’t look — speculation about the 2020 Senate primary in Massachusetts is also well underway.

Fresh off the 2018 midterm elections, both the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe published articles raising the specter that Sen. Ed Markey could face a primary challenge from one of the Bay State’s younger, ascendant Democrats. UMass Amherst even released a poll Wednesday surveying voters on the field of challengers who could run against Markey.

The 72-year-old Malden native has served in the Senate since just 2013, but spent nearly four decades in the House before that, having been first elected in 1976. Though perhaps overshadowed by the state’s other U.S. senator, Markey has a reputation for being an effective behind-the-scenes legislator, particularly on the issues of technology and telecommunications, health care, and energy.


And while it’s undisputed that he’s a tireless fighter — a “grinder” as one political blog put it — for progressive values, Markey is also white, male, relatively old, and an entrenched incumbent. That combination didn’t bode well this year for Rep. Michael Capuano — who, despite his liberal bonafides, was unseated in his Democratic primary by Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley (albeit not in a statewide election).

Asked about the speculation he could face a primary, Markey — who announced his 2020 re-election bid this fall — say’s he’ll let his record speak for itself.

“I just do my best. I work hard,” he told WBUR in an interview Tuesday. “I fight for the things that the people of Massachusetts send me to Washington to do.”

Markey said he works on “the issues which are of concern to the people in Massachusetts,” specifically naming net neutrality, funding for local medical research, and the recent Merrimack Valley gas explosions, referring to the congressional field hearing on the disaster he led Monday in Lawrence.

“I did that up in Lawrence yesterday, by bringing a Senate committee to Lawrence, so that their concerns would be heard,” Markey told WBUR. “That’s a rare occurrence, but it’s something that I thought was important. The same thing is true on climate change, on privacy, on immigration policy, on criminal justice reform.”


During the interview, Markey repeatedly said he does the best he can.

“I do my best to be the leader on net neutrality, to be a leader in ensuring there’s [National Institutes of Health] funding for biomedical research, and, at the end of the day, I’m going to do my best to push back hard on the Trump administration with a Democratic House in the new Congress, and we’re going to fight the Trump administration every step of the way to ensure that they don’t implement policies which are harmful to the state of Massachusetts,” he said.

Markey also brushed off the suggestion that he is “vulnerable” to an intra-party challenger, due to the movement in the Democratic Party to get more “fresh faces” in Congress.

“I do my best to be at the cutting edge of every issue that affects the state of Massachusetts and our country,” he said. “And on those issues, I fight and do my best to actually implement policies that are going to be effective.”

Earlier this year, Markey successfully led an effort in the Senate to reverse the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality rules, though the resolution has since stalled in the House. The junior senator also plugged recent efforts to pass legislation on climate change, pipeline safety, and criminal justice reform and said he was reinvigorated by the constant need to combat Trump’s policies.


“I have never been more energized than I am right now to get up and fight for the things that Massachusetts stands for, and it is an honor to have the opportunity to do that,” he said.

As for Markey’s potential challengers, none so far have offered anything but praise for the longtime legislator.

Rep. Seth Moulton, who won his current 6th District seat by beating an incumbent Democrat and was floated in both the Globe and Herald articles as a 2020 challenger, told McClatchy in October that he has “no plans to challenge Markey.”

“It’s not something I’m interested in,” Moulton said. “I can just tell you that the idea [of taking on Markey] is obviously coming from someone, it’s not coming from me.”

The Salem Democrat added that he and Markey “have a good relationship, and I particularly like his wife.”

Rep. Joe Kennedy III is another young Massachusetts Democrat often mentioned. Last year, the 4th District congressman acknowledged he’d consider running “if a Senate seat were to open,” but attempting to unseat a fellow Democrat, as one party “insider” told the Globe, seems “a very un-Kennedy thing to do.”

“Senator Markey is a good friend, and I think he does an incredible job representing our commonwealth in the United State Senate,” he told WBZ in an interview Sunday. “I’m a strong supporter of his and I expect that not only will he run for re-election, but I expect that he will win it.”

Pushed on the question on whether he’d ever consider running against Markey, Kennedy said that “in this business, I guess you never say never.”


“I have a hard time understanding what those circumstances would be that would lead me to do that,” he said. “That’s not on my radar screen. That’s not on my to-do list.”

In a recent piece for the Lowell Sun, columnist Peter Lucas wrote that “some say” Attorney General Maura Healey — who was just re-elected to her second term and actually led Markey by a single percentage point in the UMass poll Wednesday — will take on Markey in 2020. Healey is also a popular mention among political insiders as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2022. The attorney general’s team declined to comment Wednesday.