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Brookline attorney files paperwork to explore challenging Markey

Filing the paperwork with the FEC “will allow me to continue to explore running for the US Senate,” Shannon Liss-Riordan said.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/File 2012/Globe Staff

A prominent Brookline labor attorney is taking a major step toward a primary challenge to Senator Edward J. Markey next year, filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission as she continues to explore a campaign.

The lawyer, Shannon Liss-Riordan, wrote in an e-mail Friday that she has not yet decided whether to run against Markey in the 2020 Democratic primary, but she plans to make a final call “in the coming weeks.” Filing the paperwork with the FEC “will allow me to continue to explore running for the US Senate,” she said. (It will also allow her to raise money for her efforts.)


“I have been so energized and inspired by the conversations I’ve been having with people across Massachusetts as I have been exploring a run,” said Liss-Riordan, 49, who has drawn national attention for her lawsuits against Uber and other “gig economy” companies.

She is a registered Democrat who has been active in recent elections, according to the town clerk’s office in Brookline, where she lives. She attended Harvard as an undergraduate and returned for law school.

A Markey spokeswoman said, “Senator Markey is fighting every day in the Senate for the people of Massachusetts. From universal health care, to a Green New Deal, to equal rights, to gun safety, Senator Markey stands up for Massachusetts families and fights against the destructive, corrupt Trump administration. He is excited and energized to run for another term.”

Some political observers view the 72-year-old Markey, who has been in Congress since 1976, as vulnerable to a primary challenge, given the signs the electorate is hungry for new faces in Washington. They often cite Ayanna Pressley’s victory over longtime incumbent Michael Capuano last year as a prime example.

But other Democratic Party insiders say the Pressley-Capuano matchup, in one of the country’s most diverse and liberal congressional districts, is not relevant to a statewide primary for Senate. Rather, Markey defenders say to look at Secretary of State William Galvin’s successful defeat of a younger, more progressive challenger, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, in the 2018 primary.


Meanwhile, Markey has been bolstering his progressive bona fides — and his campaign war chest. The latest federal filings show Markey raised close to $940,000 this year for his campaign and has about $3.5 million cash on hand.

His alliance with progressive rockstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman congresswoman from New York, has boosted his relevancy and brought fresh attention to his careerlong effort on environmental issues. Unlike some establishment Democrats in Washington, Markey has enthusiastically embraced AOC, as she’s popularly known, and her crusade for a “Green New Deal,” which combines fighting climate change and economic inequality.

While the measure has thus far not fared well in Congress, Markey’s involvement has brought him lots of media attention and could help endear him to impatient millennial activists. Just this week, he headlined an event kicking off a national tour by the Sunrise Movement, a progressive youth organization, to promote the Green New Deal.

Sharing the stage with him: Ayanna Pressley.

Victoria McGrane can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.