WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) endorsed Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Friday to replace him in the Senate. The endorsement came one day after Markey had announced his candidacy, making him the prohibitive frontrunner in a Democratic primary race to succeed Kerry following his likely Senate confirmation as secretary of state.
"While I began last week to formally step out of politics and it's very important that I respect the apolitical nature of the post I hope to soon occupy, as Massachusetts' senior senator today and as a colleague of Ed Markey's for 28 years, I'm excited to learn of and support his decision to run for the United States Senate," said Kerry in a statement. "Ed's one of the most experienced and capable legislators in the entire Congress and it would be an almost unprecedented occasion for such an accomplished legislator to join the Senate able to hit the ground running on every issue of importance to Massachusetts."
Kerry went on to praise Markey's work on the environment, Internet issues and constituent service.
Kerry's endorsement seems to indicate that Massachusetts Democrats are eager to unite around a candidate against a possible rematch with departing Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who lost his reelection bid in November. Brown has demurred on whether he will run again. However, he would be a strong candidate given his personal popularity and his narrow loss to Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has said that he will likely appoint a caretaker to the seat who would not run in the special election, which will probably occur in June 2013.
Markey is the only announced candidate of significance, though two of his House colleagues, Democratic Reps. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch, have expressed interest in the seat. On Friday, Lynch sent out a fundraising email touting that he had received the "highest vote totals" of any Massachusetts congressional candidate this electoral cycle. Lynch, however, does not support abortion rights and voted against the Affordable Care Act, putting him at odds with many Massachusetts Democrats.
Markey, the most senior member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, briefly ran for the Senate in 1984 after Sen. Paul Tsongas announced he was leaving, but Markey dropped out before the primary.
UPDATE: 3:43 p.m. -- The high-profile endorsements continued for Markey on Friday, further narrowing the window for potential challengers to jump in the race.
Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), said in a statement, "Ed Markey is the right person for the job. He will be a superb Senator for Massachusetts." Vicki Kennedy herself has been mentioned as a potential interim replacement for Kerry.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also endorsed Markey's bid, with chairman Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) saying, "He is exactly the kind of leader Massachusetts needs in the U.S. Senate."