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 MarkeyOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal MORE, 73, and Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill How campaigns are adapting to coronavirus The Hill's Campaign Report: Three states holding primaries despite coronavirus MORE III, the 38-year-old millennial who's flirting with a primary challenge against him.

Insurgent Democratic Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing .5B in emergency grants for the homeless MORE (Mich.), 43, Seth MoultonSeth MoultonAsian American lawmaker warns of fear of racism over coronavirus stigma Pressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (Mass.), 40, and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellKey House chairman cautions against remote voting, suggests other options amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Congress tiptoes toward remote voting 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) KhannaDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Defense Production Act urgently needed for critical medical gear 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order 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-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response 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) CrowleyStimulus price tag of .2T falls way short, some experts say Ocasio-Cortez set to make her first appearance on Fox News Progressive organizations throw support to Sanders ahead of Michigan primary 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 WarrenDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill 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 PelosiPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Pelosi, Democrats using coronavirus to push for big tax cuts for blue state residents US watchdog vows 'aggressive' oversight after intel official fired MORE (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House 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 BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' 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 SandersSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report We're at war and need wartime institutions to keep our economy producing what's necessary Larry David: Bernie Sanders should drop out of 2020 race 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 PressleyMaryland Legislative Black Caucus pushes for state to release racial breakdown of coronavirus impact Pressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill 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 HillGaetz accuses Burr of 'screwing all Americans' with stock sale Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate This week: House eyes vote on emergency coronavirus funding 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.