Updated June 20, 10:40 a.m. | Rep. Edward J. Markey is getting widespread support from Massachusetts to Hawaii in his special-election bid for Senate in the Bay State. Wait, what? Hawaii?
Last weekend, freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, took to the campaign trail along with a large collection of state, local and federal officeholders from Massachusetts, to help push the Democratic congressman across the finish line June 25.
But why is a young congresswoman helping a longtime politician whose race is 5,000 miles away from her tropical district?
On the surface, the answer is simple: party.
“This race is about making sure that the people of Massachusetts have a strong champion on [sic] in the Senate who is committed to fighting for working families,” Gabbard said in a Markey press release. ”He will work hard to create good jobs, promote smart economic growth, honor our selfless servicemembers, and ensure that every American has the opportunity to succeed. Ed Markey has dedicated his life to public service, and represents the values of Massachusetts. We need him in the US Senate.”
Markey doesn’t exactly need Gabbard to win, but Democrats certainly don’t mind promoting the congresswoman as a fresh face of their party.
It’s part of the reason Gabbard was given a role on the main stage of last summer’s Democratic National Convention before she was even elected. Party officials quickly made her vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee after she took office. As an attractive, 32-year-old combat veteran who has experience in state and local government, Gabbard was an easy choice for a larger role than the average House member.
In the case of Massachusetts, she is a stark contrast to the 66-year-old Markey, who was elected to to the House four and a half years before Gabbard was born.
But Gabbard’s willingness to help Markey and her party is also indicative of her broader ambition for higher office.
When Sen. Daniel K. Inouye passed away, Gabbard requested that she be considered for the appointment to replace him. The request had the potential to ruffle some feathers within her own party, since she hadn’t even been sworn in to her first term in the House yet and was already asking for a promotion. Not to mention that others with more political experience were in the mix and many people believed the late senator wanted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to replace him.
Ultimately, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz was appointed to the seat and Hanabusa announced her intention to challenge him in the 2014 primary. But Gabbard chose to stay out of that mess, since running for the Senate at this stage would likely upset Democrats in Hawaii and Washington.
She could still run statewide next year by challenging Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Even though she would be challenging an incumbent, it actually wouldn’t be as big of a political risk within her own party because of his first-term troubles.
For now, Gabbard is following a regular political playbook: If you want to move your way up, help others out. And right now, the Massachusetts Senate race is the only game in town.
Update June 20, 10:40 a.m.
The original version of this story used a quote attributed to Gabbard that was taken from a Markey campaign email and also appeared on Markey’s campaign website on Monday. Subsequently, that quote was changed on the Markey site, without any notation (just a noticeable difference in font from the rest of the post) or email correction. According to a Gabbard aide, the original version misattributed a quote to the congresswoman and the second quote should be attributed to Gabbard. The second quote is now above.
When asked for a comment on why the quote was changed and why there was no notation of the change or email correction, the Markey campaign declined to comment. The original quote is as follows:
“This race is about making sure that President Obama has strong partners in the Senate who will work on behalf of American families. Ed Markey will work with President Obama to create jobs and promote economic growth, he will work to make sure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share and he will work to build an economy built to last. Ed Markey represents the values of Massachusetts, and that’s why we need him in the US Senate.”