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Joe Kennedy III will challenge Ed Markey in Senate primary

Kennedy: "not much longer" before decision on Senate bid

Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III, the 38-year-old scion of the famous political dynasty, plans to announce a bid for the U.S. Senate on Saturday, setting up a primary fight with Edward Markey, the state's incumbent Democratic senator.

The Boston Globe first reported the planned announcement by Kennedy, who has been publicly mulling a bid for months. Kennedy plans to launch his campaign in East Boston, a person familiar with the plans told CBS News. Other Massachusetts Democrats said it was their understanding that Kennedy was making final plans for a campaign.

The congressman spoke with Markey on Wednesday to inform the senator of his plans, the person said.

The telegenic grandson of Robert F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 2013, representing the western suburbs of Boston down to the state's south coast. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy once also held a Boston-area congressional seat.

The younger Kennedy is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, having delivered the Democratic rebuttal to President Trump's State of the Union speech in 2018. However, he faces an uphill battle in his challenge to Markey, who has been endorsed by several prominent progressives, including fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Markey, 73, won his Senate seat in 2012, taking the seat of former Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry. He had served in the House since the mid-1970s, and bypassed a Senate campaign in 1984 to let Kerry take the seat.

The anticipated primary between Markey and Kennedy is certain to cost millions of dollars and is likely to become a generational and stylistic, rather than ideological clash. Both Democrats are outspoken critics of President Trump and supporters of liberal policies.

Recent polls give Kennedy a lead in a crowded primary field that might also include other Massachusetts statewide elected officials and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Kennedy's move puts several Massachusetts Democrats and donors in a bind, since both men are well-liked in the state. Markey has shored up some support with progressives lately, in particular because he co-authored the Green New Deal climate change proposal with Ocasio-Cortez and introduced it in the Senate.

Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Markey for re-election on Friday, saying in a video released by Markey's campaign that he is one of the Senate's "strongest progressives." 

Kennedy, who was once Warren's student at Harvard Law School, has been stumping on the campaign trail for his former professor. He told reporters earlier this month that he understood why Warren had chosen to endorse Markey and that he was close to making his own decision.

"Primaries get messy. And I totally understand that. I respect her and the position of other folks in the delegation," he said, adding that her endorsement of Markey would not be "a major factor" in his decision.

After last week's Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Warren told CBS News, "I couldn't ask for a better partner in the United States Senate than Ed Markey. He's worked very hard on a lot of issues for a very long time."

When Kennedy went to the Massachusetts Democratic convention on Saturday, he did not seem to be attracting much support from the party faithful. For instance, one Kennedy constituent, Sue Rorke of Medham, Massachusetts, told CBS News she is supporting Markey and doesn't understand why Kennedy was even considering running.  

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

In the post-debate interview with CBS, Warren said of Kennedy, "He is my friend. I have worked with him on multiple issues. When it came time to do my nomination, my declaration that I was going to run for president, Joe's one of the people I called on ....These are friends, and I very much hope friends will work this out."

For now, they haven't, and an epic political clash may be coming.

Eleanor Watson, Nancy Cordes and Sarah Ewall-Wice contributed to this report.

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