PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Edward Markey said Thursday he'll run for John Kerry's Senate seat if Kerry becomes the nation's next secretary of state, but that isn't affecting state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing's decision as to whether he will run.
Downing is listening to the voices of the people to sway his decision whether to run for the U.S. Senate seat, not those of potentially opposing candidates, a spokesman for the Pittsfield Democrat's campaign said Thursday.
A native of Malden, Markey is the dean of the state's congressional delegation. In a statement issued Thursday, he said the events of recent weeks, including the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and the ongoing fiscal cliff debate, have made it clear to him that Massachusetts needs a senator with what he called the "right priorities and values."
"I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate because this fight is too important," Markey's statement reads. "There is so much at stake."
Markey also has a large amount of money in his campaign fund, noted North Adams City Councilor John Barrett III, who's been involved in the Democratic party for more than 40 years, including 26 as the mayor of North Adams.
"[Markey's] announcement shocked a lot of people in the Democratic party because he's got a safe seat and seniority," Barrett said. "Moving out of your district and going statewide is an ambitious effort. I'm surprised by it."
Barrett said that Markey "would be a strong candidate because he has money and he has a large campaign fund. He's been a prolific fundraiser over the years so that's a big advantage going into the race."
As of Nov. 26, the Markey Committee ended the year with $3.1 million cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission's website.
"You need to raise $10 million to $15 million to get the statewide name recognition," Barrett said. "When people enter the race, they don't have the name recognition they think they have. [Markey] is not a known name. He probably hasn't had a strong opponent in better than 30 years. He usually runs unopposed."
Markey's seniority and campaign war chest will not affect Downing's decision to run for the seat.
Downing is "basing his decision on the conversation with the people of Massachusetts, not other candidates," said Conor Yunitz, a spokesman for Downing. "He's not paying attention to what other candidates are doing."
The field for a Democratic primary could be a crowded one. U.S. Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch have said they're seriously considering running for the seat while Rep. Niki Tsongas has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. Capuano has nearly half a million dollars in his account while Lynch has more than $740,000. Tsongas has about $166,000. Downing had about $76,000 as of his last financial report at the end of October.
In a previous statement, Downing asked that people use the holidays to spend with family and friends and not focus on politics. No further statement has been issued.
"Ben Downing could be an attractive candidate," Barrett said. "The question comes down to if he has the money."
On the Republican side, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown would be the clear front-runner if he decides to run again.
Brown won a 2010 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy but then lost a re-election campaign this year to Democratic Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren.
Despite the loss, Brown would be a formidable candidate. He has a statewide political organization and more than $400,000 left in his campaign account. He remains popular and demonstrated an ability to raise millions of dollars in campaign donations.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.