SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Congressman Bill Keating said Friday he is not withdrawing his endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s re-election, but acknowledged an expected primary challenge by his colleague Joe Kennedy III has created a “very difficult” situation for their fellow Democrats.
“Senator Markey had called me earlier, as he did call many government officials in Massachusetts, and he said, you know, ‘Can I have your support?'” Keating recalled during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “And I said, sure, because we had no idea Joe Kennedy was going to run at the time. So certainly that’s not going to change.”
Still, Keating heaped praise on the 38-year-old four-term congressman, whose 4th District borders Keating’s 9th, splitting the city of Fall River.
Keating said he was “not terribly” surprised when he learned Kennedy was seriously considering entering the primary, and said he now expects Kennedy to go through with it. He said they have discussed the topic occasionally, but he has not advised Kennedy one way or the other.
“It does appear to be on a course where Joe’s going to run,” Keating said.
The prospect of a primary battle between a four-decade congressional veteran and a scion of the state’s most prominent political family has electrified Massachusetts politics in recent weeks. Two public polls have shown Kennedy starting out with a double-digit lead over Markey.
Emily Kaufman, a spokesperson for Kennedy, said Friday he is still making up his mind.
“Rep. Kennedy looks forward to connecting with more folks at the Democratic Convention this weekend, she told WPRI 12, referring to the state party gathering in Springfield. “He expects to make a final decision in the coming weeks.”
Markey’s team has been pushing back aggressively, with a focus on playing up his progressive bona fides as chief Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal. On Friday his campaign rolled out an endorsement video from his partner in that effort, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I work with both of them,” Keating said. “It’s very difficult. They both have enormous strengths and abilities. We’ll just see what happens.”
“They both are extraordinarily talented people and have a great deal of experience and ability,” he added. “I guess if you look at it that way, it could be looked at as a pleasant problem. It’s not like you have alternatives that are terrible.”
As for Keating’s own political future he did not rule out the possibility of making a bid to win U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s seat if she wins the White House, but said he is currently focused on seeking re-election in 2020.
Watch Congressman Keating’s full interview — including his take on Vineyard Wind, President Trump and the Mashpee tribal land fight — on this weekend’s edition of Newsmakers.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook
An earlier version of this story listed Congressman Kenendy’s age incorrectly.