Markey, Card will not seek Senate seat

One cites loss of political clout; other says family was a factor

By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff / September 12, 2009

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The race for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Edward M. Kennedy, a scramble among some of Massachusetts’ most prominent political players, took another turn yesterday when two of the top potential contenders, US Representative Edward J. Markey and former White House aide Andrew Card, decided against a run.

Markey, the region’s most senior congressman, announced earlier in the day that he would not run, removing a major player from the Democratic primary field.

Late last night, Card, the chief of staff to President George W. Bush and a leading possible Republican candidate, decided that “now is not the right time for me to enter a political race.’’

In one of the biggest elections the state has seen since Kennedy claimed his seat 47 years ago, the race to replace him over the last several days has been more defined by who is not running.

An important development came earlier this week when Joseph P. Kennedy II, former US representative and the only Kennedy family member to seriously consider entering the race, decided not to seek his uncle’s Senate seat.

And though potential candidates from both parties are still weighing campaigns, some observers say Markey’s decision could be the last big one on the Democratic side.

“His leaving now clarifies and defines the final field,’’ said Michael Goldman, a veteran Democratic consultant.

Markey, 63, the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, said he concluded that his seniority in the House - he is the eighth-most senior member - is all the more important now that Kennedy has died. He said that as a Senate newcomer, he would lack the influence he now has to help the state and advance legislation on a host of issues that he champions, from climate change to energy independence.

“I will have more clout for Massachusetts in the House than as a freshman in the Senate,’’ said Markey, a Malden Democrat who has served in Congress since 1976. “That was at the heart of my decision.’’

The Democratic primary race for the special election will be held Dec. 8, and the general election is Jan. 19.

Markey, with $3 million in his political account and the ability to raise millions more, would have been a formidable contender. Two other US House members from Massachusetts have said they are running: Michael Capuano of Somerville and Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston. Another House member, John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat, is also considering the race.

The other major Democratic candidate at this point is Attorney General Martha Coakley, who was the first to declare. As the only woman in the race and the one candidate to have run statewide, Coakley may have an early advantage. She holds a substantial lead in some early polling.

But Coakley has yet to show whether she can raise the millions of dollars needed to compete. Capuano, with $1.2 million in his account, and Lynch, with $1.4 million, will hit the ground running in terms of financing.

Coakley cannot legally tap her state campaign account to run for federal office, and has only begun to raise money for the Senate race.

Earlier in the week, Card, who served four terms as a state representative from Holbrook before taking a succession of jobs in Washington, said that he was leaning toward a run, but that his wife’s work as a Methodist minister at a small congregation in Virginia would be a factor in his decision.

He said last night in a statement, released by the state Republican Party, that he was heartened by the support and encouragement he has received over the last several days, “But ultimately, the decision is what I believe to be in the best interest of my family. Now is not the right time for me to enter a political race.’’

In the statement, Card, 62, endorsed state Senator Scott Brown, a Republican from Wrentham who has said he would only run if Card did not. Brown was not available for comment last night, but posted on his Facebook site that he will make an announcement at 2 p.m. today at the State House.

In addition, former candidate Jack E. Robinson took out nomination papers yesterday, and Republican Robert E. Burr Jr., a Canton selectman, has expressed interest in the race.