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In Framingham, voters are split on the prospect of a Joe Kennedy run against Ed Markey

 Senator Ed Markey rebuffed criticism that he is not tough enough on President Trump.
Senator Ed Markey rebuffed criticism that he is not tough enough on President Trump.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

FRAMINGHAM — It would be a fight.

Voters at a Wednesday evening town hall meeting hosted by Senator Edward J. Markey were split on the prospect of congressman Joe Kennedy III running against him for the Democratic nomination, a bid Kennedy is said to be considering.

“The whole idea is craziness,” said Mike Hugo, a Democrat from Framingham who gave his age as “senior citizen.”

“I think it’s a shame,” he said. “When somebody is doing a great job in office, and someone else wants to step in, I wonder about ego.”

Hugo added that he quite likes Kennedy and “thinks he should stay in Congress for now.”

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But asked about a potential Kennedy challenge, Danny Rizzo of Woburn responded with two words: “good idea!”

The independent-leaning Democrat was angry Markey isn’t taking the fight hard enough to President Trump.

“Markey should be much more involved with the bad situations we’re in with Trump,” he said, shaking his head.

“Markey has done a good job during his years, but,” he said, it’s time for “young blood,” someone who will push back more vociferously against the president.

Even though the town hall was about the Green New Deal — and held in late August, a typically sleepy political month — many of the hundreds of people walking into a Framingham High School auditorium were up-to-date on the prospect of a Kennedy-Markey primary fight. It’s a matchup that has riveted Massachusetts since The New York Times reported last week that Kennedy was mulling a 2020 run against Markey.

That story followed news of a poll Kennedy had commissioned over the summer.

A person who has seen the survey’s results said Wednesday that it showed Kennedy with a lead over Markey, outside the margin of error. The person said it found Kennedy doing especially well in his district, which stretches from Brookline to Fall River, as well as in other areas, including Boston, Cape Cod, and west of Worcester. Markey, a former representative, showed strength in his old district, which includes suburbs around Boston that are rich with Democratic votes.

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Wherever the hypothetical race stands, several voters in Framingham seemed uneasy about the prospect.

Cynthia Ellis, a Democrat from Concord, said she wants to learn more about a potential Kennedy Senate bid. “I think Ed Markey’s just a very strong, experienced candidate,” Ellis said of the 73-year-old.

Markey has worked to show strength in recent days, as talk of a challenge by Kennedy, 38, grew.

He released an endorsement video from Senator Elizabeth Warren, something that hadn’t gone unnoticed by the people filing into Wednesday’s gathering.

Maxine Bellew, a retired high school teacher who lives in Marlborough, said both Kennedy and Markey are strong candidates. Markey “is good. I respect him. And he’s endorsed by Elizabeth Warren,” the 75-year-old said, approvingly. As if to underscore how much the endorsement meant, she said she has “tremendous respect” for Warren.

And Markey was poised, an aide said, to earn the endorsement on Thursday of the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people devoted to stopping climate change.

Attendees lined up for a Q &A with Markey and Clark at the high school.
Attendees lined up for a Q &A with Markey and Clark at the high school.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Before taking the stage at the town hall, Markey was fired up. “Donald Trump has brought out a fight in me that is stronger than at any point in my career. I’m more energized because of what he poses as a threat to Massachusetts values,” Markey told the Globe.

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On stage, he spoke at length about several climate issues — he cosponsored the Green New Deal with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — as well as gun control. That drew a standing ovation.

Before the event, some voters said they were trying to learn more about how Markey and Kennedy line up on issues, while others seemed to already have a good sense of where the two liberal politicians land.

“I don’t see the Kennedys as any more progressive than Markey,” said a registered Democrat from Maynard, a 73-year-old woman who declined to give her name.

Kennedy hasn’t publicly addressed the prospect of a Senate bid, but a spokeswoman has said he is running for reelection to his House seat — notably using the present tense.

The town hall meeting drew voter questions that ranged from carbon-sequestration technology to vegetarianism to Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The event was cohosted by Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose, a member of the congressional delegation who has not endorsed Markey for reelection.

Earlier Wednesday, in an appearance on the radio, she declined to endorse Markey. “I don’t have any endorsements to announce today,” Clark said on WBUR-FM.

Clark praised Markey for his “incredible leadership” on environmental issues, saying he “has helped us as a country come to understand what’s at stake.” But she also had kind words for Kennedy.

“Joe Kennedy is also a great colleague and a friend and someone that I am close to,” Clark said. “But it’s a hypothetical primary at this point. I value them both as great colleagues and mentors, and we will see how this all plays out.”

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Clark added that “primaries ultimately are up to the voters, and I think both of them have great records to run on.”

Clark, a top member of the House Democratic leadership, was first elected in 2013, filling the seat Markey vacated when he won John F. Kerry’s Senate seat after Kerry was appointed US secretary of state.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark and Senator Edward Markey hosted Wednesday night’s forum in Framingham.
Congresswoman Katherine Clark and Senator Edward Markey hosted Wednesday night’s forum in Framingham. Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.