US Representative Edward J. Markey said Monday he would consider running for the US Senate were John F. Kerry nominated for secretary of state, but a poll he’s conducting shows it’s not just some idle thought.
A Massachusetts resident relayed to a Globe reporter the contents of a 20-minute survey an out-of-state firm conducted via telephone that assessed Markey’s strengths and weaknesses in a potential match-up against Senator Scott Brown.
Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, was defeated for reelection last month by Markey’s fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren, but the incumbent senator has indicated he would turn around and run again after leaving office on Jan. 3 if Kerry resigns his own Senate seat to join the Obama administration.
Markey, a former state representative from Malden and now 18-term congressman, is among the Democrats who would be considered potential candidates against Brown in any special election to replace Kerry.
“When that announcement is made, I will seriously consider looking at it,” Markey told the Globe Monday during an event in Malden with Attorney General Martha Coakley.
The poll, however, suggested that serious consideration is already well underway.
It assessed Markey’s favorability against several other potential rivals from his own party, including fellow US Representatives Stephen Lynch of Boston and Michael Capuano of Somerville; former congressman and now-UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin Meehan; and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
After Edward Kennedy died in August 2009 of brain cancer, Brown defeated Coakley in the special election to replace him. Were Kerry to also leave the Senate, Governor Deval Patrick would have to appoint a temporary officeholder while another special election is held within 145 days to 160 days to select a permanent replacement.
Political circles are abuzz with the names of potential appointees, including Vicki Kennedy and former Governor Michael S. Dukakis. He discounted the chatter during a Globe interview on Monday.
There have also been questions about whether Patrick would appoint a temporary senator who would be a candidate in the special election. Such an appointment could give the appointee the opportunity to gain statewide name recognition while also bearing the title, “senator.”
In 2010, the governor decided against that, instead appointing Kennedy confidante Paul G. Kirk Jr. as a caretaker while others competed in the special election.
Patrick said last week he is inclined to do the same again, and that could play into the decision-making of the incumbent congressmen.
Were Patrick to try to give either Lynch, Capuano, or Markey a head start by appointing them senator while they ran for the seat permanently, they would have to resign their House seat because they could not simultaneously serve simultaneously in both chambers of Congress.
If the governor again appoints a caretaker, the congressmen can run in the Senate special election without risking their seat. The special election would likely be completed by July; the House members don’t have to seek reelection to their current seats until November 2014.
The poll probed Markey’s prospects in a head-to-head special election match-up against Brown, hinting at perceived lines of attack against the senator - and the congressman’s own potential vulnerabilities.
For example, the pollster asked whether the respondent had either “very serious doubts,” “fairly serious doubts,” “only some doubts,” or “no real doubts” about a series of positive Brown attributes.
They included his personal likability and capacity to work in a bipartisan fashion.
The pollster also asked whether the respondent was aware Brown had accepted donations from Wall Street financial firms, voted with Republican leadership, and opposed the nomination of Elena Kagan - the former dean of Harvard Law School - to the Supreme Court.
And, echoing a theme of Warren’s successful campaign against Brown, the pollster asked if the respondent would be affected by other perceived anti-woman votes on abortion rights or pay equality.
As for Markey, the pollster asked about perceived strengths, including his work on clean energy legislation, his vote against Bush-era tax cuts, and his life story growing up the son of a milkman.
As for perceived negatives, the pollster asked about Markey votes on tax increases, whether the congressman spends too much time in Washington, and if, after 36 years, he doesn’t come back to his district enough.
The pollster noted that Markey, who long claimed residency in his childhood bedroom at his parent’s Malden house, spends the bulk of his time living with his wife in a house in Chevy Chase, Md., a Washington suburb. An aide said Markey also bought his parent’s house after his father died in 2000.
Massachusetts election law does not require members of Congress to live in their districts, only that they be an “inhabitant” of the state when elected. The Constitution says a member of the House must be a resident of the state in which an election occurs.Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.