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Kennedy confirms he’s interested in Senate primary: ‘I’m not sure this is a moment for waiting’

Representative Joseph Kennedy III.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Representative Joe Kennedy III, scion of the state’s political dynasty, acknowledged Monday he is considering a run for US Senate in 2020, raising the prospect he could challenge Senator Edward J. Markey in a blockbuster primary that would pit two liberal Democrats separated more by age than ideology.

Kennedy also filed key paperwork to prepare for a Senate run, creating a campaign fund-raising committee for a potential statewide bid and submitting a statement of candidacy for the Senate, records show.

In a Facebook post, the 38-year-old said he has not yet reached a decision and is mulling family considerations, what he has to offer Massachusetts voters, and what’s right in this political moment. He pushed back against the idea of waiting for an open seat.


“I hear the folks who say I should wait my turn, but with due respect — I’m not sure this is a moment for waiting,” wrote Kennedy, of Newton, who was first elected to Congress in 2012. “Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can’t fix it if we don’t challenge it. I’ve got some ideas on how to do that.

“And I don’t think our democratic process promises anyone a turn,” he continued. “What it does promise is the chance for anyone to earn it — if we think we have something to offer and are willing to put ourselves and our ideas out there.”

The post comes after weeks of speculation and news reports about the intentions of Kennedy, who is the grandson of the late senator Robert F. Kennedy and the son of former congressman Joe Kennedy II.

Asked about Kennedy’s Facebook message, Markey, 73, said he’s running hard on the issues the people of Massachusetts care the most about.

“I’m fighting to protect people who are being punished by Donald Trump just because of the color of their skin. I’m fighting to ensure that we have a Green New Deal that we put on the books. I am fighting to have the strongest possible gun safety laws be instituted in our country to stop the carnage on the streets of our nation,” he told reporters at an immigration event in Boston.


“The Trump administration is trying to make America great again by making America hate again,” he said. “I have been fighting him since the day he was sworn in, and I am going to continue to fight for the people who are most vulnerable in our country every single day.”

Asked if he would continue his reelection bid if Kennedy gets in, Markey replied: “I am running for reelection, and I am going to criss-cross this state and give it everything I’ve got.”

Markey first won a seat in Congress in 1976. He held that perch, representing a suburban and mostly liberal swath of cities and towns around Boston, until he won a US Senate seat in a 2013 special election.

The Malden Democrat already has two announced Democratic primary challengers in the 2020 race, labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan and businessman and author Steve Pemberton.

Kennedy indicated that he wouldn’t be making a decision on the race imminently.

“I plan to spend the next couple weeks talking to as many of you as I can, trying to figure out if this campaign is right for me and right for Massachusetts,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’m grateful for your thoughts, encouragement, and especially your patience as I weigh a big decision.”


For his part, Markey has been working to show off his grass-roots and institutional support in recent weeks.

The senator 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. On Sunday, Markey announced his top campaign aide will be John E. Walsh, a former state party chairman and top ally of former governor Deval Patrick.

And activists have rallied to Markey’s defense.

“He’s been out front on environmental issues, particularly climate change, for decades,” said Deb Pasternak, the director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, who co-authored an opinion piece last week calling on Kennedy to stay in the House.

Pasternak said Monday it is Markey’s “veteran status as a lawmaker and as a climate champion that makes him so valuable in his position.”

Markey’s record also includes championing issues ranging from stopping nuclear proliferation to modernizing telecommunications to protecting consumers.

Since taking office in 2013, Kennedy has focused on defending immigrants, expanding transgender rights, safeguarding health care, and battling gun violence. He’s also made a name for himself as one of the party’s top communicators in the era of President Trump.

If Kennedy jumps 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 records show.


Analysts said the post by Kennedy on Monday was wise after weeks of people chattering about the race.

“Very smart for him to come out now and start to define the Senate race on his terms,” said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh.

She said the statement was one more step “in a very methodical march for Joe Kennedy to get into the race.”

Marsh predicted what might happen after Labor Day: public polling showing he would be ahead of Markey, high-profile people calling for him to run, and, she said, “I would expect, thereafter, an announcement that he’s getting in the race.”

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.