But Bay State voters may not be picking a senator so much as anointing an heir to a tradition of activism that runs through Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, all the way back to Charles Sumner and Daniel Webster.
“Massachusetts has always punched well above its political weight,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.). “When you consider people who have served in the United States Senate from Massachusetts, or former House speakers John McCormack and Tip O’Neill, I think it’s clear that the state produces a lot of very effective political figures.”
Kennedy devoted his career to fighting for health-care reform, only to die before Congress enacted changes in his name. Kerry came to the Senate with a reputation as an antiwar activist and spent almost three decades in the Senate focused on foreign affairs. He won his party’s nomination for president in 2004 and now serves as secretary of state.
More recently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) has emerged as a consumer crusader and is already discussed as a future presidential candidate.
In the current race, the heir will either be a long-in-waiting veteran Democrat or a young GOP upstart. Their showdown may be a reminiscent of the contest to replace Kennedy three years ago when Republican Scott Brown faced off with Democrat Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, in a special election.
Brown trounced Coakley, delivering a high-profile rebuke to President Obama at the height of the debate over health-care reform, and a stinging defeat for Massachusetts Democrats.
Not this time, Markey vows. “Right now, the Democratic Party in Massachusetts is not agonizing, it’s organizing. They are ready to go,” he said Wednesday.
During a Democratic “Unity Breakfast” at a downtown Boston hotel, Markey stood alongside Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, whom he defeated in Tuesday’s primary.
“We are committed to ensuring that the Republicans do not win this seat in Massachusetts in the same way that they did in 2010,” Markey said, referring to Brown’s victory. “We are going to stand shoulder to shoulder as a united party, working from this morning all the way through to June 25 to ensure that every door is rung, every phone call is made so that people understand the differences between our two parties.”
Assuming the role of attack dog, Lynch blasted Senate Republicans on blocking legislation widely supported by Americans, including the recent bipartisan proposal on expanding the national gun background-check system.
“If you want more of that, then go ahead and put another log in the logjam and put another Republican in the Senate,” Lynch said.