Rep. Edward J. Markey on Thursday became the first prominent Democrat to officially declare he will run for the seat of John F. Kerry in the widely expected event the senator is confirmed as President Obama’s next secretary of state.
Mr. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat first elected to Congress in 1976, immediately threw the gauntlet down, launching a broadside in his announcement against a score of liberal enemies — the tea party, the National Rifle Association, the energy industry and religious conservatives.
“I refuse to allow the Tea Party-dominated Republican Party to lead us off the fiscal cliff and into recession,” he said in a statement. “I won’t allow the NRA to obstruct an assault weapons ban yet again. I will not sit back and allow oil and coal industry lobbyists to thwart our clean energy future or extremists to restrict women’s rights and health care.”
Mr. Markey, 66, is the longest-serving member of Massachusetts’ all-Democrat House delegation.
“I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate because this fight is too important,” he said. “There is so much at stake.”
Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint an interim replacement if a vacancy occurs. Under state law, a special general election must take place from 145 to 160 days after the position opens.
Mr. Patrick appointed former Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul G. Kirk to fill the state’s other Senate seat after the August 2009 death of longtime Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, with the understanding that Mr. Kirk would not run in the special election.
In that January 2010 special election, Republican Scott P. Brown scored a dramatic, upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley, propelled by early rumblings of the tea party movement.
Mr. Brown’s victory denied Democrats what had been a filibuster-proof majority and sending their plans to pass health care legislation into chaos, though they eventually were able to pass a bill using parliamentary maneuvers.
Mr. Brown was defeated by consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren in his bid for re-election this year. He has not said whether he will run again, but he hinted at a possible comeback in his farewell speech on the Senate floor earlier this month.
“As I’ve said many times before, victory and defeat is temporary,” he said. “Depending on what happens, and where we go, all of us, we may obviously meet again. But I’m looking forward to continuing on with those friendships, with continuing on working with my staff.”
Edward M. Kennedy Jr. — Mr. Kennedy’s oldest son — and actor Ben Affleck announced recently they will not run for Mr. Kerry’s seat.
There also has been speculation about possible Democratic candidacies by Ms. Coakley, U.S. Reps. Stephen F. Lynch and Michael E. Capuano, and former Rep. Martin Meehan.