MALDEN — Standing before supporters in a packed gymnasium, Representative Edward J. Markey formally launched his run for the US Senate, talking about his long-held environmental goals and gun control advocacy, but not about Scott Brown, the Republican former Senator who could have been Markey’s most formidable opponent.
Markey, a Democrat from Malden, announced his plans making no mention of Brown, who announced Friday he would not run in the special Senate race.
Instead, in a 20-minute speech at the Malden YMCA where he played basketball as a child, Markey regaled a crowd of about 500 supporters in the gymnasium with stories about his local ties, and declared that he seeks John F. Kerry’s vacated Senate seat to stem the tide of climate change, ban assault weapons, curb America’s dependence on foreign oil, and support President Obama’s policies on Capitol Hill.
“I am running for the US Senate to put the American dream within the reach of all Massachusetts residents,” said Markey, 66, as his wife, Susan, stood to the side on the stage. “I am running to move President Barack Obama’s agenda forward.”
Markey also made no mention of another challenger for the Democratic primary, fellow US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who announced this week that he also plans to vie for Kerry’s seat.
Markey played up his ties to the Malden community, where he lives in the same house where he grew up. He thanked family who supported him “when no one else knew my name during that long-shot race for state representative — when I started out at 3 percent at the polls, with a margin of error of 5 percent.”
Malden’s mayor, Gary Christenson, lauded his work helping to advocate for victims of industrial pollutants.
“The message I want to give to the rest of the state,” Christenson said, “is you’re going to love Ed Markey.”
Throughout his speech, Markey listed issues and bills for which he had advocated during his 36 years in the House of Representatives. Much of his address centered on environmental advocacy, global warming, clean energy, and fuel emissions — a subject that drew some of the loudest bouts of applause from the audience.
Markey said he plans to combat staunch conservatives and find ways to work with moderate Republicans while staying loyal to his Democrat base.
“This campaign will travel every mile, to every corner of Massachusetts,” Markey said. “I know when the chips are down, we Democrats don’t agonize, we organize.”
After his speech, Markey told a gaggle of reporters that Brown’s bowing-out did not affect his strategy for the coming months of the campaign.
“My intention has always been to campaign for every vote, to do so in every community in the state, and my plan remains unchanged,” Markey said.
The representative maintained that the lack of a clear challenger from the Republican field did not concern him.
“Senator Brown and his family I’m sure made a very difficult decision that I respect, and I wish him the best and I wish his family the best going forward,” Markey said. “And I welcome any Republican into this race who is willing to talk about the issues, willing to have a real discussion about the important issues which the people of Massachusetts want to have discussed.”
Watching the speech from above on an exercise track turned balcony, 62-year-old Carl Taplin of Watertown seemed pleased at Markey’s candidacy — climate change, he said, is one of his biggest concerns, and he nodded in approval when that was among the first things Markey mentioned in his speech.
“He’s always been on the right side of the spectrum,” Taplin said. And with Brown out of the picture, he continued, “I think it’s in the bag.”
Arlington resident Aimee Coolidge, 56, said she was already a strong supporter of Markey for the Senate seat, but Saturday’s speech further buoyed her enthusiasm.
“He’s got such a long history with environmental issues,” she said. “In this neck of the woods, that’s pretty important.”
Karol McIlvaine of Malden said she was impressed that Markey declined to dedicate time in his speech to speak about his challengers. She’s hoping for a positive race, she said, and Markey is just the politician to keep the campaign focused on issues, not on personalities.
Lisa Pedulla, 50, of Arlington, maintained that she had been unconcerned whether Brown entered the race.
Intimidated by the Republican heavy-hitter? No way.
“We proved last election cycle that Scott was very beatable,” she said. But that doesn’t mean Markey’s supporters can get lazy in the coming months, she warned.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Pedulla said.