MALDEN, Mass. (AP) -- Democratic Rep. Edward Markey kicked off his campaign for U.S. Senate on Saturday with a tour of Massachusetts, telling supporters that he is the best person to succeed John Kerry and help move President Barack Obama's agenda forward.
Though he didn't name his only announced challenger, fellow Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, Markey highlighted his support of women's reproductive rights and the federal health care overhaul, two issues on which Lynch has a mixed voting record.
"I'm standing up for a woman's right to choose," he said to applause at the YMCA in his hometown of Malden.
Kerry left the Senate to become secretary of state. He was sworn in Friday. Gov. Deval Patrick named William "Mo" Cowan, a former top aide, to fill Kerry's seat until a special election to replace him scheduled for June 25. Markey and Lynch will face off in a primary April 30.
Massachusetts Republicans are scrambling to find a candidate after former U.S. Sen. Brown opted out of the race Friday. Asked about Brown's decision, Markey said it was probably a difficult but correct move for his family. He said he welcomes any Republican to the race who is interested in a real discussion and encouraged any candidate to pledge to limit out-of-state influences.
Markey said he will fight cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and will work to protect Social Security. He said he also wants to fight to keep research money for Massachusetts and boasted of his climate change and gun control efforts.
"I want these weapons off our streets," he said.
From Malden, Markey planned stops in Worcester and Springfield.
Kerry is among those supporting Markey, who also starts the race with a substantial financial advantage, $3.1 million in his campaign account compared with Lynch's $740,000 in the most recent campaign finance reports.
Markey also has the backing of Victoria Kennedy, widow of the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, and of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.