ED MARKEY’S ascension to the Senate, after 37 years in the House, was a businesslike transaction: Massachusetts needed a veteran to take the place of John Kerry, and Markey fit the bill. His victory was a choice of liberal over moderate and known over unknown, but voters also — and most crucially — picked a proven advocate over a charismatic newcomer who could promise everything but clout. That’s what Markey, a freshman senator on the cusp of his 67th birthday, must provide in order to validate the voters’ faith in him.
The good news for Markey, who won a low-turnout election by a solid but not spectacular margin, is that he’ll now be judged by his performance in office, rather than the campaign trail. But that doesn’t mean he won’t face significant challenges, especially with the need to stand for re-election in just a year and a half, when Kerry’s term expires.
Voters may not have been excited by Markey, but they knew what they were getting: A senator who can make sure the Bay State gets its fair share of federal resources, while also being a national force for progressive legislation. Energy has been a focus of Markey’s in the House, where he pushed through a plan to reduce industrial carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade formula. Unfortunately, that plan got bottled up in the Senate, where Markey now will have to work doubly hard to build a coalition against climate change.
Much as the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s advocacy for medical research helped both the patients of the world and the vast health care dynamo of Massachusetts, Markey’s crusade against climate change could have both global and local impact. The state can be a center of research and production of renewable energy, but needs a national energy policy that furthers such priorities.
The Senate is a famously quirky institution, and Markey will be hindered by its seniority rules. But in a body of 100 members, many of whom served with him in the House, Markey will have plenty of opportunities to work his will. He is well-positioned to succeed, and he deserves the best wishes of all his new constituents.