Pipefitters and electricians on their lunch break from the Vertex construction project on Fan Pier sipped sodas and wiped away sweat Monday afternoon, as the nation’s most junior Senate delegation made its way down the sidewalk.
Elizabeth Warren went first, shaking hands, complimenting T-shirts. Then came Ed Markey, following Warren. After she crossed the sidewalk to shake a few more hands, Markey did the same.
Warren posed for photos with the workers. Then it was Markey’s turn.
This is how it is likely to go for the duo, over the next 16 months anyway. Markey, the victor in last month’s Senate special election to fill the remainder of the term won by John F. Kerry in 2008, is the junior partner in both chronology and celebrity. Politically, it makes sense for him to affiliate himself as tightly as possible with Warren. Monday’s will not be their last joint photo shoot.
Warren, 64, is a national star within the Democratic Party, frequently cropping up in discussions of potential 2016 candidates, despite fewer than seven months in office. Markey, 67, provokes decidedly less buzz, seen as a 37-year House member who paid his dues and stepped into the seat many had long expected him to occupy.
‘She very much has the voice of the populist Democrat right now, so why wouldn’t he echo that?’
Warren is also hugely popular with the grass roots both nationally and in Massachusetts. Markey relied on much of Warren’s voter-
turnout infrastructure to help him defeat Republican Gabriel E. Gomez last month.
That creates the incentive for Markey to allow as little daylight as possible between himself and the senior senator.
“Senator Warren is now the cop on the beat down in Washington,” Markey told the crowd during their joint tour of a start-up incubation center on the South Boston Waterfront, following Warren’s response to a question from the audience about financial industry regulation.
“I think Senator Warren put it very well,’’ Markey told a pack of microphones, after Warren fielded a question on student loan interest rates. “We’ve opened up a new national discussion. By the way, she’s the one who has opened up this new national discussion.”
“I agree with the senator,” Markey said, following Warren’s comment on the “stand your ground” law that drew attention during the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Marching in tandem is not a new strategy for senators from the same state. Kerry tracked closely with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, despite staffs that often were in conflict.
Even during the brief break between Democratic hegemony in the Senate delegation, the chamber’s decorum called for the stark policy differences between Kerry and Republican Scott Brown to be discussed politely. Personal criticism, in public, was mostly off limits.
But Markey’s task, facing reelection less than a year and a half after taking office while working in the shadow of his colleague, renders their political relationship particularly crucial.
“She’s incredibly popular within the party and is appealing to independents with the fights she’s taking on, so it would behoove Markey in this tenuous in-between period to tie himself to popular elected officials, to popular issues, and Elizabeth Warren is both,” said David Guarino, a Boston public affairs strategist.
Guarino added, “She very much has the voice of the populist Democrat right now, so why wouldn’t he echo that?”
During their Monday tour, Warren, too, played her part, effusive in praise of Markey.
“I just want to stick this in about how pleased we are in the United States Senate to be welcoming Ed Markey and his expertise, particularly on climate science,” she told reporters. “He comes in not as hundredth in priority in the Senate. He comes in with a résumé that is strong, and we know that his leadership will be terrific in this area.”
“We’re looking to Ed Markey for some leadership here, and I know we’re going to get it,” she added.
Warren, Markey, and a handful of aides rode an elevator down from the 14th-floor start-up workspace. Out on the sidewalk, they shared a bear hug, the state’s junior senator, and the Senate’s most junior senior senator.