US Senate hopeful Markey points to long recordBy STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
Apr. 27, 2013 11:08 AM ET
BOSTON (AP) — As a teenager growing up in Massachusetts in the early 1960s, Edward Markey remembered hearing how John F. Kennedy was too Irish, too Catholic and too much a product of Boston politics to be elected president.
For Markey, an Irish Catholic kid from Malden, Kennedy's victory was both a triumph and an inspiration.
"In his inaugural address, he said that public service was an opportunity to do God's work here on Earth," Markey said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "He not only inspired me but inspired a whole generation to think of public service."
Markey came from humble roots. His father drove a truck for the Hood Milk Co. Markey, who would be the first in his family to go to college, attended Malden Catholic High School and helped pay his way through Boston College by driving an ice cream truck.
Markey, who is facing off against fellow U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch in Tuesday's Democratic primary in the state's special U.S. Senate election, was in his third year at Boston College Law School when he decided to plunge into politics by challenging a longtime Democratic state representative.
"I was a much more liberal Democrat than the incumbent, and I think that made a big difference," Markey said. "There was a changing of the guard that was taking place not just in Massachusetts but across the country, and I was part of that."
Markey's stint at the Statehouse was relatively brief. He was elected in 1972 and sworn in the following January. But he would make good use of his time, positioning himself against a top Democratic powerbroker.
Markey was assigned to the Judiciary Committee and soon set his sights on ending a system that allowed Massachusetts judges to maintain private law practices while serving on the bench.
"The system was loaded with built-in conflicts of interest," Markey said.
He pulled together support for a bill that would abolish the system and give dozens of judges with law practices three years to choose between being full-time judges or full-time lawyers.
Despite the opposition of the powerful house speaker at the time, Thomas McGee, Markey's bill was approved and in early 1976 it was signed into law by former Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Markey would pay a political price, at least temporarily.
When McGee announced Markey was no longer on the committee, Markey and his backers responded by holding a press conference which further irked the House leader.
"Overnight we got a call to say that my desk was no longer in the Judiciary Committee, that they shoved it out into the hall," Markey said.
Markey, who by then was running for Congress, seized the opportunity. He launched a campaign ad that showed him standing before his desk in the hallway and using the tagline: "The bosses can tell me where to sit, but nobody tells me where to stand."
Markey took his seat in Congress in 1977 and was assigned to committees overseeing health care and energy by a fellow Massachusetts Democrat — former U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill.
At the time the country was struggling with a foundering economy and an energy crisis. One of Markey's first major amendments to pass increased funding for solar energy.
For the next three decades, Markey would build a legislative portfolio that included work on energy, telecommunication, national security and the environment.
He wrote legislation to set minimum safety standards for the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas facilities and helped persuade President Bill Clinton to block the importation of inexpensive Chinese semi-automatic assault weapons.
Markey would press for the breakup of the monopoly that AT&T Corp. had on phone service, write legislation to increase competition in the cable television industry and collaborate on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Markey said those efforts help plant the seeds for the innovation revolution that led from rotary phones to smartphones.
Markey also won over environmentalists when he pushed tougher efficiency standards for household appliances and pressed to set goals to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases.
When oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on an offshore rig operated by BP, Markey forced the company to make live video footage of the spill available on a public "Spillcam" website.
"Anybody who knows me knows I take on the tough issues and I get results," he said.
Markey has also proven adaptable.
Once an opponent of abortion rights, Markey quickly switched his position early in his political career.
"I just decided that it was the woman's choice and that the decision should be between her and her physician and her family," he said.
Markey has also fended off critics who point to the home he owns in Chevy Chase, Md., to suggest that he's gone from political firebrand to Washington insider. But Markey insists his true home is the family's house in Malden.
Markey and his wife bought the house in 2001 following his father's death.
"I have lived in the same house in Malden for more than 60 years," he said.