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 MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Twitter tells facial-recognition app maker to stop collecting its data Democratic senator presses facial recognition company after reports of law enforcement collaboration MORE, 73, and Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Lawmakers press Trump officials to change federal marijuana rules Trump and Pelosi clash over Iran, impeachment MORE III, the 38-year-old millennial who's flirting with a primary challenge against him.

Insurgent Democratic Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive MORE (Mich.), 43, Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Congress reacts to US assassination of Iranian general Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far MORE (Mass.), 40, and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Enes Kanter sees political stardom — after NBA and WWE Swalwell pens op-ed comparing Trump impeachment to XYZ Affair 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) KhannaWarren calls for Brazil to drop charges against Glenn Greenwald Sanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE (Calif.), who ousted veteran Democrat Mike HondaMichael (Mike) Makoto HondaYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 Silicon Valley lawmaker backs Apple in terror case MORE in a 2016 primary, are fully in Markey's corner.

ADVERTISEMENT

On Friday, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Sanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa The Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa 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) CrowleyOcasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm Hill.TV's Krystal Ball says Ocasio-Cortez has become a force in Democratic Party Ocasio-Cortez: 'In any other country Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party' 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 Ann WarrenKlobuchar plans campaign rallies across Iowa despite impeachment trial Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Warren pledges to release Trump records if elected 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate 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 BidenSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment 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 SandersSanders to Clinton: 'This is not the kind of rhetoric that we need' Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Human Rights Campaign president rips Sanders's embrace of Rogan endorsement 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 PressleyThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power Pressley says she 'would welcome the opportunity' to educate DeVos after abortion, slavery comparison Massachusetts governor apologizes after calling Pressley speech a 'rant' 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 HillVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address California Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Cenk Uygur updates on Congressional campaign, how I will call out corporate politicians in Washington 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.