Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat with strong ties to the party’s progressive base, endorsed the reelection next year of Sen. Ed Markey, fortifying the Massachusetts Democrat as he seeks to thwart what could be a tough primary race.
Boston lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan has launched a challenge to Markey’s renomination from the left. Businessman and author Steve Pemberton is also running. And Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, may take on the senator, which would ensure a national spotlight on the intra-party battle.
Khanna, who represents much of the Silicon Valley technology corridor, stressed Markey’s commitment to an aggressive approach in dealing with climate change as he detailed his endorsement for HuffPost.
“No one matters more on climate change in the entire Congress than Ed Markey,” Khanna said. “He has the expertise on understanding what we need to do to implement a Green New Deal and the legislative skill to be able to build a coalition for legislation that can pass the Senate. When we have a Democratic president, we’re going to need Ed Markey to lead on climate change. So if someone cares about climate change, they need Ed Markey.”
Khanna, who first won his House seat in 2016 by defeating a Democratic incumbent, recently invited Markey to speak at a gathering of tech company leaders in his district. At the event and in his endorsement of Markey to HuffPost, Khanna cited Markey’s work during decades he spent in the House shepherding complex and controversial legislation that helped usher in the modern internet and telecommunications infrastructure.
Markey, who first won his Senate seat in a 2013 special election, also has led the fight to reinstate net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from treating different kinds of web traffic unequally, Khanna noted.
“He is one of the most critical leaders when it comes to technology,” Khanna said.
The Massachusetts primary is just about a year away ― it will be held next Sept. 15 ― and Khanna is the first House member to endorse Markey’s reelection. Earlier this year he became the first House member to back a 2020 primary bid by Marie Newman, the manager of a progressive nonprofit, against Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat from Illinois.
In 2018, Khanna was the only member of Congress to offer support to the then-unknown Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s Democratic primary. He initially backed Rep. Joe Crowley, the powerful incumbent Ocasio-Cortez unseated in a startling upset, but made it a dual endorsement after a backlash from left-leaning activists.
Markey, who arrived in Washington as a House member in 1977, already is stressing his long commitment to progressive causes and policies as he gears up to rebuff the challenge from Liss-Riordan. And should Kennedy enter the race, his record as a House member since 2013 will make the contrast easier for Markey to draw. Although Kennedy is officially a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he held off on supporting marijuana legalization until November and did not join the co-sponsors of a single-payer health care bill in the House until February.
Kennedy’s positive name recognition appears to have nonetheless given him a head start in a hypothetical matchup. A poll conducted in late August showed Kennedy leading Markey by 17 percentage points in a contest for the Democratic Senate nomination.
In the fight for progressive support, Markey should benefit from having been an early alarm-sounder on climate change, which young activists have propelled to the fore of the national debate in the past two years.
He was a lead author of a cap-and-trade carbon regulation bill that passed the House in 2010 but then died in the Senate. And he is a co-sponsor, with Ocasio-Cortez, of a resolution calling for the Green New Deal ― a plan for massive economic mobilization that aims to shift the U.S. entirely to renewable energy in the coming decades.
Markey also developed a strong relationship with the Sunrise Movement, a group of young climate activists who have engaged in civil disobedience to push for the Green New Deal. The group endorsed him in August.
And Elizabeth Warren, his Massachusetts colleague in the Senate whose bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Markey endorsed in July, returned the favor with a video endorsement of him last month.
Campaign records showed Markey had over $4 million in cash on hand as of the end of June ― slightly less than Kennedy’s $4.2 million. Liss-Riordan, who lent her campaign $1 million, had just under that amount left in the bank.