High Profile Labor Attorney to Primary Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey

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May 20, 2019

A prominent Massachusetts attorney has announced her intention to primary longtime Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), who has represented the state in Congress since 1976 when he was first elected to the state’s 7th Congressional District.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a graduate of Harvard Law School, announced her campaign to unseat Markey on Monday. She says the "cycle of Washington politics" needs to be broken and a "fresh voice" is needed to do it.  

Her launch video does not mention Markey explicitly but it is filled with references that she will cast herself as an outsider compared to the senator's 40-year political career.

"This country is stuck because of the cycle of Washington politics," Liss-Riordan says near the end of the video. "Washington needs a fresh voice willing to break that cycle."

Rounding out her announcement, Liss Riordan declares that Massachusetts voters have a choice in the Senate election to "maintain the status quo in Washington, or vote for me and break it."

Markey began his political career in the early 1970s when he was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. After three terms in the state legislature, Markey ran for the open 7th Congressional District in 1976 and represented the district up until 2013 when he won the special election to replace John Kerry after he became Secretary of State.

Liss-Riordan leans on her experience in the private sector as evidence that she could be an effective lawmaker.

"You may not know me but if you look me up you’ll see my entire career has been driven by my beliefs," Liss-Riordan says to lead off the video.

Her legal work has garnered her numerous profiles from national outlets as she has successfully sued some of the largest corporations including Amazon, Google, Fedex, and Uber among others. She in her campaign launch video notes her work as a labor attorney earned her the nickname "the Sledgehammer," for taking on "gig economy" corporations and forcing them to alter their business model to better meet employee wage and benefit demands.

"How One Woman Could Destroy Uber’s Business Model — and Take the Entire ‘On-Demand’ Economy Down With It," a headline from NY Mag declared in 2015 profiling Liss-Riordan. The article focuses on Liss-Riordan’s lawsuit against Uber for classifying drivers as "independent contractors." The nation's largest ridesharing platform, valued at approximately $80 billion, settled the case with its drivers for $20 million earlier this year.

Her success suing some of the largest corporations defining the current American economy has helped her achieve "a kind of celebrity unseen in the legal world since Ralph Nader sued General Motors," according to a 2016 profile by San Francisco Magazine. 

Liss-Riordan's opening campaign message echoes a populist, anti-establishment tone highlighting her 20 years of experience representing cleaning workers, truck drivers, restaurant workers, and baristas. Her campaign website does not feature an issues page, indicating her campaign will concentrate on her biographical differences from Markey rather than policy ones.

Massachusett voters have shown a willingness to oust long term incumbents including most recently in the 2018 midterm elections when then-Boston city councilwoman Ayanna Pressley defeated ten-term Congressman Mike Capuano in the Democrat primary. In that race, Pressley (D., Mass.) received the support from Justice Democrats, a group aligned with Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Ortez’s (D., N.Y.) primary defeat of Joe Crowley.

Justice Democrats, a liberal group that backed successful primary challengers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), did not respond to requests from the Washington Free Beacon about whether the organization intends to engage in the looming primary battle.