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Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight

Young lawmakers who want new blood in the Democratic Party aren’t rushing into the looming generational battle between Massachusetts Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators ask airlines to offer cash refunds for unused flight credits Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation MORE, 73, and Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyWarren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker MORE III, the 38-year-old millennial who's flirting with a primary challenge against him.

Insurgent Democratic Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez hits Yang over scrapped Eid event: 'Utterly shameful' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel MORE (Mich.), 43, Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops Is it okay to waste infrastructure dollars? Lawmakers want Pentagon, DOJ to punish current, former military members who participated in riot MORE (Mass.), 40, and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGOP struggles to rein in nativism Personal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot Trump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting MORE (Calif.), 38, told The Hill they're staying out of the race. And some young progressives, such as 42-year-old Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech GOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (Calif.), who ousted veteran Democrat Mike HondaMichael (Mike) Makoto HondaSwalwell, California politicians targeted by Chinese spy: report Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 MORE in a 2016 primary, are fully in Markey's corner.

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On Friday, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez hits Biden for taking 'the side of occupation' in Mideast violence Yang: Those who thought tweet in support of Israel was 'overly simplistic' are correct McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel MORE (D-N.Y.), the 29-year-old liberal firebrand with 5.3 million Twitter followers, threw her weight behind Markey, who introduced the Senate version of her Green New Deal measure earlier this year.

“Ed Markey is a proud and strong progressive champion for working families, not just in Massachusetts but across the country. And his leadership in authoring the Green New Deal, along with me, and carrying it in the United States Senate is emblematic of the kind of work that he does for working families across the country,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a video endorsement.

“And Ed Markey was one of the few people that had the courage to stand up and take a chance. And take a chance on a freshman congresswoman. And take a chance on this plan,” added Ocasio-Cortez, who ousted Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyLiberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges NY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney Carolyn Maloney will face Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger MORE (D-N.Y.) during a 2018 primary in one of the biggest political upsets in recent years.

Sources close to Ocasio-Cortez said she huddled with Kennedy on Thursday and warned him not to challenge Markey. Instead, she encouraged him to run for Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel MORE’s seat if she wins the White House next year or moves on from the Senate, the sources said.

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey also have been discussing the idea of holding a series of Green New Deal town halls throughout Massachusetts, a source said, the first of which would be later this year.

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A handful of Massachusetts Democrats said they expect Kennedy to formally launch his bid against Markey any day now, though they added that Kennedy — the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and a scion of one of America’s greatest political dynasties — is keeping things close to the vest.

Asked by The Hill about his timetable for making a decision on the Senate, Kennedy replied, “As long as it takes to get there — and hopefully soon.”

A source close to Kennedy says the four-term congressman has received plenty of encouragement from House colleagues, particularly younger members. But so far, only one lawmaker has publicly encouraged Kennedy to take on Markey: freshman Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who befriended Kennedy when they were elected to the House in 2012.

Since then, they’ve held several joint fundraisers and even led a charity bike ride.

“Joe Kennedy is one of the most talented, committed people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and serving with. He’s got a vision and he gets things done,” Sinema, 43, told The Hill. “He will be a tremendous senator.”

The Kennedy-Markey fight comes amid Democratic tensions about generational change and whether younger blood is needed in the top echelons of the party.

After winning back the House majority last fall, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Inflation jumps at fastest pace since 2008 | Biden 'encouraged' on bipartisan infrastructure deal Overnight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response Biden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWhat's a party caucus chair worth? House fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — all in their 70s at the time — fended off attacks by a band of young insurgents hungry for new leadership.

The issue of age was also front and center at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston, where former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro repeatedly accused former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE of muddling an explanation of his health care plan. "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?" he asked.

Biden is 76, while his two closest rivals — Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (I-Vt.) and Warren — are 78 and 70, respectively.

Warren, the progressive presidential hopeful on the rise, has already endorsed Markey.

When it comes to Kennedy and Markey, lawmakers are not taking sides along traditional generational fault lines. Instead, the potential primary is likely to focus on which candidate is more progressive.

Markey declined to speak to The Hill about a potential challenge from Kennedy. But the senator’s allies highlighted his role in crafting the Green New Deal and noted that he supported “Medicare for All” and the legalization of marijuana much earlier than Kennedy did.

“Markey is the leader on climate change and has been more progressive on Medicare for All, on legalizing marijuana, on taking on Big Pharma,” Khanna, a progressive leader from Silicon Valley, told The Hill. “He will have the overwhelming support of the progressive base because of his record and also of many tech leaders given his leadership on net neutrality.”

Kennedy and his team appear unfazed. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey published this month found that in a head-to-head match-up, 42 percent of likely Massachusetts voters said they would favor Kennedy, compared to Markey’s 28 percent.

"As Congressman Kennedy considers the race he is focused on feedback from the people of Massachusetts, and them alone," Kennedy spokeswoman Emily Kaufman said in an email.

Both Markey and Kennedy are slated to appear Saturday at the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s annual convention in Springfield, according to The Boston Globe.

Kennedy’s moves against Markey, who served in the House from 1976 to 2013, are infuriating many senior Democrats who served with Markey and have bought into the system of seniority. 

Those Kennedy critics say that the grandnephew of former President Kennedy is in a rush to win a Senate seat so he can run for president in 2024 or 2028. Some Democrats have speculated that Kennedy believes he has a better shot at taking out Markey, a fellow white male, than beating Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyWarren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Bush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Genetic material from 1993 killing revealed years after another man executed for crime, groups say MORE (D-Mass), 45, the first black woman elected to Congress from the Bay State, in a future Senate race to replace Warren.

“This is F’d up. You’re going to take on Ed Markey because you think he has an expiration date because he’s in his 70s and you’re not?” said one powerful female senior Democrat in the House.

“He’s looking at running for president, and he knows he can’t do that from the House and doesn’t want Markey to go six more years. He’s in his 30s!” the Democratic lawmaker said. “I just think it is incredible hypocrisy for the Democrats to decide the expiration date of people.”

A second senior House Democrat added, “Those in my generation, we believe in waiting our turn, getting experience under our belt. And those younger generations do not embrace that; they live for the moment, and they are looking for instant gratification.”

Tlaib, who along with Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley is a member of the so-called “squad” of four progressive freshman congresswomen of color, said neither she nor her Michigan constituents are focused on the potential Massachusetts race.

Swalwell, who ousted 40-year incumbent Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) in a 2012 primary and repeatedly challenged Biden to “pass the torch” to a new generation during a presidential primary debate, had no comment about a potential Kennedy-Markey fight.

And Moulton, who ousted incumbent Rep. John TierneyJohn F. TierneyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Stanley McChrystal endorses Moulton for president MORE (D-Mass.) in a 2014 primary, ran for president this year and then ended his campaign months later, is also staying neutral for now.

“I’m just listening,” he said. “I’m not saying one way or the other.”

But other fresh faces in Congress said primary races are the new normal in the Democratic Party and that they are keeping their options open as Kennedy nears his decision.

“There is a strong case to be made that we are going to have more of these races where it is about a generational change, where it’s about bringing new voices. We have seen some of that happen in the House; quite frankly we have not seen much of it in the Senate,” said freshman Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillMaher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Former Obama official named NFL senior VP of communications Republicans fret over divisive candidates MORE (D-Calif.), who is a junior member of Pelosi’s leadership team.

“I’m one of the people who believes this is the Democratic process and we shouldn’t be opposed to primaries happening,” she added.