As he faces the prospect of a Democratic primary challenge from Representative Joe Kennedy III, Senator Edward J. Markey announced Sunday that a former state party chairman and key Deval Patrick ally will be his top campaign aide — and another adviser who embroiled himself in controversy last week is headed for the exit.
John E. Walsh, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party from 2007 to 2013, is taking control of the Markey campaign’s strategy, hiring, and day-to-day operations.
Meanwhile, a campaign adviser who retweeted a nasty attack on Kennedy’s family, will be “imminently” ending his involvement with the campaign, a campaign spokeswoman said.
“Paul Tencher, who was working as a consultant until a campaign director was put in place, is assisting with the transition and will close out his involvement with the campaign,” according to spokeswoman Giselle Barry.
Both Tencher and Markey have apologized profusely.
The announcement of the campaign chief is part of a recent rollout aiming to show Markey’s grassroots and institutional support while Kennedy mulls a 2020 run against the 73-year-old Malden Democrat.
Markey has trumpeted endorsements including a video from Senator Elizabeth Warren, and the nod from the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people devoted to stopping climate change, who hailed Markey for cosponsoring the Green New Deal.
Kennedy, 38, hasn’t publicly addressed the prospect of a Senate bid, but a source close to the Newton Democrat confirmed earlier this month that he was considering the race.
In a telephone interview, Walsh, who managed Patrick’s come-from-behind 2006 campaign for governor, praised Kennedy, as well as Markey’s announced Democratic primary challengers, labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan and businessman and author Steve Pemberton.
But Markey is “the exact kind of leader we need right now,” he said. “I like troublemakers. I like disrupters. Ed is the original.”
Walsh referenced the mid-1970s episode when Markey was serving in the state House of Representatives. Chamber leaders stripped Markey of his committee assignment and ordered the furniture removed from Markey’s office in retaliation for his sponsorship of a court reform bill they opposed.
Markey made a famous ad about the episode that helped him win a seat in Congress in 1976, a perch he held until he won a US Senate seat in a 2013 special election.
Walsh framed Markey’s record as a congressman and senator as being at the forefront of key issues, from telecommunications to climate change.
He said if Kennedy gets in the race, he will be a “serious, serious contender,” but underscored that no one should underestimate “the power of Ed Markey’s story, his accomplishments, and his willingness to push against the status quo.”
Walsh noted that while some in the party establishment had shied away from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Markey is “unhesitatingly standing shoulder to shoulder with” her, cosponsoring the Green New Deal.
Markey, for his part, praised Walsh, whose title will be senior campaign director, in a written statement.
“John Walsh is a five tool player, excellent in all aspects of campaign work — field, communications, policy, operations, and strategy,” he said. “I am honored to have John join us, and look forward to his expertise as we build an historic team to bring our campaign to victory in 2020.”
Walsh, a 61-year-old who runs a consulting business and owns an insurance business, lives in the Lower Mills neighborhood of Dorchester. He was a senior adviser to the short-lived gubernatorial campaign of Setti Warren, who was looking to unseat Charlie Baker in 2018.
Markey’s campaign also announced Sunday the hiring of a campaign pollster, Jefrey Pollock of Global Strategy Group. Pollock is well-respected in national political circles, and led polling for the gubernatorial campaign of Steve Grossman in 2014 and the Boston mayoral campaign of Martin J. Walsh in 2013.
Should Kennedy jump in the Senate race, he’s expected to be able to quickly put together a robust, top-notch campaign, from ad-makers to pollsters to fund-raisers. Kennedy ended June with more than $4.2 million in the bank compared to Markey’s $4.1 million, federal fund-raising records show.
A poll Kennedy commissioned over the summer found Kennedy with a lead over Markey, outside the margin of error, according to a person who has seen the survey’s results.