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Trump impeachment overshadows Markey-Kennedy Senate race

The historic impeachment of President Trump has overshadowed the Senate race between Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III.Steven Senne/AP/Associated Press

If you haven’t heard a lot about what was supposed to be the hottest Senate race in the country — the primary battle between Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III — there’s at least one good reason for that: the historic impeachment of President Trump.

But as the action moves to the Senate, the national drama that has overwhelmed the news may provide an opportunity for Markey to show voters back home that he is fighting against the president that a sizable majority of them love to hate.

“The case made in the House of Representatives was one that had overwhelming evidence that the president had compromised the trust that is reposed in the president of the United States,” Markey said Friday, asked about the House vote on Wednesday to impeach Trump, only the third US president to have that notorious distinction.


The House approved two articles of impeachment, charges that the president abused the power of his office by enlisting a foreign government to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election and that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.

Those articles of impeachment were backed by Kennedy and nearly all House Democrats and supported by the third candidate in the race, Shannon Liss-Riordan. The charges now go to the Senate for trial, originally expected to kick off in January, where Markey will be one of 100 jurors tasked with deciding if Trump should be removed from office.

The timing of the trial has become its own drama, now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until Republican leaders there demonstrate they plan to carry out a “fair” trial.

Markey picked up that message and a broader Democratic strategy of focusing voter ire on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, when asked about impeachment during a press conference Friday.


“Unfortunately, thus far, Mitch McConnell has made it very clear that he intends on not being an impartial juror. He does not intend on running anything other than a partisan process that will be a sham trial,” Markey said, praising Pelosi for taking a stand “to ensure that there is a fair trial.”

None of this means impeachment is a huge winner for Markey politically.

“The reality is that there’s very little public role, if any, for any of the senators who are going to be sitting for the trial,” said Jim Manley, a longtime aide to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Most of the spotlight will be on the impeachment managers, House members appointed by Pelosi who will present the case in the Senate.

Still, Markey “can take the opportunity to once again remind the people of Massachusetts that he’s sitting in this trial willing to stand up to Trump,” he added.

It’s unclear whether those opportunities will outweigh the rather large drawbacks impeachment brings.

And as the topic devours the national attention span, Markey, Kennedy, and Liss-Riordan have faced a harder time breaking through to voters. And many observers say no news about the race is particularly bad news for Markey, who is seen as lagging Kennedy.

“The immediate impact of the impeachment process has been to push the Kennedy-Markey race not only off the front page but out of the newspaper and the news completely. It’s disappeared,” said Jeffrey M. Berry, a Tufts University political science professor.


He is among those who see that as potentially disadvantageous to Markey. What little polling has been done in the race shows Kennedy with a slight lead over Markey, he noted. “The degree to which things are frozen in place may work to [Kennedy’s] advantage.”

There’s a logistical disadvantage to Markey, too, presented by the actual Senate trial, whenever it begins. Many in Washington expect the trial schedule to mirror that of former president Bill Clinton in 1999, when the trial ran six days a week, according to one Senate aide.

Depending on how long the trial runs, it could cut into Markey’s time on the campaign trail in Massachusetts.

Liss-Riordan, a Brookline labor attorney, did not bite when asked by the Globe if the impeachment frenzy has made it harder for her to gain traction with voters.

“I’m very proud of the House for impeaching Trump,” said Liss-Riordan, who called for impeachment proceedings against the president back in May, before either Markey or Kennedy. “Having him in office has been harmful to our country, and he needs to be removed.”

Kennedy, like his rivals, has focused his campaign messaging in part on making the case that he would be the best person to take on Trump in the Senate. And he garnered state and national media coverage for his short speech, in the form of a verbal letter to his two small children, explaining why he planned to vote to approve the articles of impeachment.


“This is a moment you will read about in your history books,” he told them. “[Trump] broke our laws. He threatened our security. He abused the highest, most sacred office in our land. I want you to know that it does not feel good.”

While some deemed the speech “moving,” others saw it as corny or worse — the American Conservative magazine labeled it as one of the five most “hyperbolic” moments of the House impeachment process.

Either way, his campaign saw it as positive, and blasted out Friday a list of links to a dozen stories mentioning Kennedy’s remarks on impeachment.

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