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Possible Markey challenger, a Mass. native, lived in Chicago until recently

Steve Pemberton in 2018.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File

Steve Pemberton, a onetime foster kid from New Bedford turned successful executive and author, is exploring a primary challenge to Senator Edward Markey.

Those preparations have included moving back to Massachusetts full time and buying a home in Framingham last month.

As recently as May 17, Pemberton’s Facebook and Twitter accounts listed his location as Chicago, and interviews with him a year ago about his memoir, “A Chance in the World,” becoming a movie, noted he lived in the Chicago area with his three children and his wife, Tonya.

However, he updated those social media account locations to Boston not long after a Globe reporter reached out to ask about rumors he was mulling a Senate run. By the time he acknowledged that he’s considering getting into the race, his social media profile listed his location as Framingham.


“Finding my roots was a long journey and I’m blessed that Massachusetts is and always has been my home. While a career opportunity briefly took me to the Midwest I’m thrilled to be back home,” Pemberton said in a statement provided to the Globe.

Pemberton lived in Framingham until 2011 with his wife and kids, then they moved to Illinois so he could pursue a job opportunity, according to information provided by Kyle Sullivan of Northwind Strategies, one of Boston’s top political consultant shops, hired by Pemberton, 51, as he explores running.

In 2017, Pemberton took a job with Globoforce, now called WorkHuman, a human resources software company, and he started to split his time between suburban Chicago and Framingham, where the company is based. Pemberton is the company’s chief human resources officer.

In May, Pemberton bought a house in the same Framingham neighborhood he had previously lived in with his wife and three children before they moved to Illinois, Sullivan said. Pemberton’s two younger children, for now, “will be remaining in their current high schools in Illinois,” Sullivan added. Pemberton’s oldest son just graduated from high school.


Certainly, Pemberton’s roots run deep in Massachusetts. He was born and raised in New Bedford, bouncing around the foster care system starting at the age of 3. He went on to attend and graduate from Boston College. He now serves on its board of trustees. He met his wife, Tonya, on Martha’s Vineyard, and he proposed to her atop the Prudential Center in 1997.

Should he decide to jump in the race, a decision he has indicated he will make next month, Pemberton would be the second challenger working to unseat Markey in the 2020 primary. Last month, Brookline labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan officially announced her campaign for Senate, pitching herself as a “fresh face” and populist champion for workers’ rights.

Markey, who is 72 and has served in Congress since 1976, has vowed to vigorously defend his seat by running on his record. He also has a nice head start in the money race, with about $3.5 million in his campaign war chest.

Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.