ED MARKEY is no Elizabeth Warren, but the comparison cuts two ways. The two Massachusetts senators approach their job differently; even before she won office for the first time in 2012, Warren had made herself a national political figure — more because of her ability to frame big-picture goals like student-loan reform than because of the specific details of the policies she proposes. Markey, on the other hand, toils among the footnotes to improve legislation. It’s work that rarely stirs the soul. But Markey’s legislative skill pays dividends for Massachusetts, and he deserves election to a full six-year term Nov. 4.
After a long career in the House of Representatives, Markey was elected last year to fill the Senate seat vacated by John F. Kerry. In Markey, voters knew exactly what they were getting: a veteran pol with conventional Democratic views on most social and economic issues and a strong background on energy, foreign policy, and science. His expertise pays off in ways that aren’t always obvious. For instance, during the Ukraine crisis, Markey amended a pending aid bill to include energy efficiency assistance that should help reduce that country’s reliance on Russian natural gas. Over the long term, that may help Ukraine far more than any diplomatic or military support the United States can offer.
Especially on issues in his wheelhouse, Markey has shown a measure of independence. He has broken with President Obama several times since his election to the Senate, recently rejecting assistance to Syrian rebels. He has also opposed moves to loosen export restrictions on American gas and oil, putting him at odds with the White House. Regardless of where one stands on those questions, Markey has brought an important critical voice.
Brian Herr, Markey’s Republican opponent, has run a credible campaign. But his criticisms of Markey’s priorities ring false. He faults Markey for concentrating on climate change, as if rising sea levels will have no impact on a coastal state like Massachusetts. He portrays Markey’s efforts to preserve net neutrality as a waste of time, but it’s smaller tech firms — like the ones that tend to take root in Massachusetts — that will likely suffer most if incumbent Internet service companies such as Verizon and Comcast are allowed to give preferential access to their favored content providers.
Instead, Herr promises to fight for more health research funding. That’s a great priority — and it’s also one that Markey shares. For that matter, so does Warren; no Massachusetts politician should oppose basic health funding, which is so crucial to the Greater Boston economy but has declined in recent years. It’s a good cause; in Markey, though, the Commonwealth has a senator who has shown he can deliver.