Markey Has 'Free' Shot at U.S. Senate. He Should Run Like There Are No Shackles

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ed Markey doesn’t need to win the race for John Kerry’s Senate seat, which is the key to the success of his campaign.
When confirmed as President Obama’s next Secretary of State, Kerry will resign from the Senate. Governor Deval Patrick will then set a date for a special Senate election within 145 to 160 days of Kerry’s resignation.  It’s special because it occurs outside the normal election cycle for federal offices.
A sitting congressman like Markey can run in the special without giving up his place in congress, so if he loses, he doesn’t really lose:  he’s still a member of the exclusive congressional club, with all the rights, duties, opportunities and privileges that entails.
It has been said, correctly, that Markey or any other member of the Massachusetts U.S. House delegation can make a “free” run at Kerry’s seat because the only price they’d pay for failing is a damaged ego.   (And what is more easily mended than the ego of a player on Washington’s world stage?)
Markey has been a fixture in D.C. since 1976, when he won the special election that produced a successor to President Kennedy’s friend, Torby Macdonald, who had died in office at age 59.  Of the 435 current members of the U.S. House, only eight have been there longer than Markey.  There’s only one federal legislator in all of New England who’s been in Washington longer than Markey, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Over the 36 years (18 terms) he’s been in the congress, Markey has cast thousands of votes, delivered countless speeches, and issued enough press releases to blanket Route 95 from Boston to Washington a couple of times over.  If Markey’s public record were a book, it would be the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Yes, Republicans declare, all the better for rummaging through and shooting at!
Markey’s dad was a milkman and he himself drove an ice cream truck in the summer to earn tuition money.  True to his blue collar, union-saturated Malden roots, Markey has generally taken progressive positions on the issues.  The conservative National Journal has given him a “Composite Liberal” score of 89.2.
Of late, Markey’s favorite issues have included reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming; fostering the development of alternative energy, such as solar and wind power; protecting the privacy of children online; and adding safety measures at nuclear power plants and other vulnerable parts of our energy infrastructure, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
Markey is an irrepressible quote machine for the media.  He once memorably suggested, for example, that global warming skeptics consider banding together in their own, new country.  “An iceberg four times the size of Manhattan has broken off Greenland,” he said in August, 2010, “creating plenty of room for global warming deniers to start their own country.”
Some Republicans have welcomed his entry into the Senate race, believing he’s been around way too long.  At age 66, they want to believe, he lacks the energy and excitement needed for a fresh, first attempt at statewide office.
“He hasn’t had a competitive race in decades, so I imagine his political campaign muscles are pretty atrophied,” Republican consultant Rob Gray told the Boston Herald.
Wishful thinking.
Markey got to the congress in the first place by beating 12 other candidates in a brutal Democratic Primary.  He was an obscure, 30-year-old state rep, a longshot who became a phenom, a prodigy who out-imagined and out-hustled the opposition at every turn. 
Now it’s true he’s hasn’t had many tough election fights since 1976.  Yet Markey never became fat, dumb or happy.  He never coasted through a congressional session.  He maintained his edge.  Also, he has remained wholesomely idealistic in a way seldom found outside college dormitories.
Among some office holders, of course, there’s a cynical view that issues are to be avoided if at all possible. 
“Issues,” a former municipal leader once told me, “can only get you in trouble.  I hate issues.” 
Markey’s approach is the opposite.  He loves issues.
If Markey were to ask me for advice on his Senate campaign, (Yeah, sure), I’d tell him:
Ditch the campaign consultants and pollsters; stand proudly, like another Ted Kennedy, on your liberal record; say everywhere plainly what you honestly believe; worry not about how you’re coming across; and run free, like you don’t give a damn if you win or lose.
“Because you don’t have to be a U.S. senator, voters will get that you’re telling them what you truly believe, not what you think they want to hear,” I’d tell him. 
“You caught lightning in a bottle in ’76.  It can be done again.”

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