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Ed Markey supporters urge Joe Kennedy III to stand down on primary bid

If Congressman Joe Kennedy III was looking for support for a potential Senate primary challenge against fellow Democrat Ed Markey, he does not appear to have found it at the Massachusetts Democratic convention Saturday.

He did not address the convention, although he was there to moderate a panel on combating racism. Reporters there asked him about a timetable for deciding whether he would mount a bid to unseat Markey. Kennedy said he hoped to make a decision soon but stressed he had no timeline.

However, he also refuted any concern that it would be a bad time for a potentially expensive Senate bid that could be a distraction from the 2020 presidential campaign.

"I don't see how an active, engaged race that enables an electorate across the state to make an informed decision about who is going to represent them in the United States Senate for the next six years is a bad thing," Kennedy said. "I think that's exactly what the process is designed to do."

As Kennedy entered the convention center, he was approached by Reverend Miniard Culpepper, who is senior pastor of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Dorchester and an adviser to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Kennedy listened intently to Culpepper for several minutes. Culpepper shared with CBS News the words of advice he had for the Massachusetts congressman.

"I told Joe Kennedy that I thought he needed to consider what was best in terms of whether he should run, and I told him I worked with Ted Kennedy on his first presidential campaign and that I thought it critical that he prays about this before he does anything and seek the Lord's direction," said Culpepper. 

He said Kennedy assured him he would do just that and asked for prayers in return. 

Culpepper also told CBS News he thinks the presidential campaign is where the Democratic Party's major focus and resources should be. He thinks there will be a major battle for the Senate, so this kind of challenge in a safe Senate seat would be unproductive.

A recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found Kennedy leading Markey in a hypothetical five-way primary matchup 35% to 26%. But at the weekend's party gathering, the organizing base of the Massachusetts Democratic Party came out in loud support. 

Election 2020 Massachusetts Democrats
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey gestures to supporters during the Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Springfield, Mass. Jessica Hill / AP

Kennedy constituent Sue Rorke of Medham, Massachusetts, told CBS News she is supporting Markey and does not understand why Kennedy is teasing a run.  

"I like Kennedy — there's nothing wrong with Kennedy," she said. "But he's trying to fix a problem that's not there." 

When asked if he was worried about a challenge from Kennedy, Markey told reporters he is running his race focusing on issues that matter to him and the members of the state's party. 

Markey told reporters he has not talked to Kennedy yet, but "we'll talk soon." 

Hank Sorrett who is on the Sudbury Democratic Town Committee said the support for Markey at the convention should dissuade Kennedy from jumping into the race. 

"You need to have foot soldiers, and you need to have foot soldiers who know how politics work and how the electoral process works, and I think you saw where the foot soldiers are going."

Zachary Hudak contributed to this report.

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